Opioid-Related Car Crash Deaths on the Rise in the United States
WASHINGTON, D.C.- Atlanta.cbs.local.com reports that the number of people killed in car accidents that involve drug use is now greater than the number killed in accidents involving alcohol. While 38% of driver deaths were related to alcohol use in 2016, the percentage of drivers killed in car accidents that tested positive for drug use was 44% that same year. One decade earlier, in 2006, only 28% of drivers killed in car wrecks tested positive for drugs.*
The reason for the spike in fatal drug-related car accidents seems to be a combination of the opioid crisis and laws legalizing marijuana use. Over 50% of the drivers tested positive for opioids, marijuana, or both.
Determining whether a driver is on drugs is currently a struggle for officers. Some individuals on drugs may not show the same tell-tale signs that officers are trained to recognize in drivers impaired by alcohol. More difficulties are created by the fact that there is no instant and reliable test for officers to perform to determine impairment by drugs in the way that a breathalyzer works for alcohol.
These difficulties led to a woman who was investigated after being involved in a minor fender bender being released by officers, just to go on and cause a fatal crash about 19 minutes later. The driver later tested positive for painkillers and sedatives, the officer who spoke to the woman at the scene of the fender bender could not tell that she was impaired.
Police departments have started to train their officers to recognize signs of impairment in people who have marijuana or any other drugs in their systemsin the hope that they will be able to curb the number of drug-related car crashes.
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