Newly Released Study Shows That Drugged Driving Responsible For More Deadly Crashes


May 14, 2017

As calls for marijuana reform sweep the nation, a new study recently released suggests that drivers operating under the influence of drugs caused more fatal crashes in 2015 than drivers operating under the influence of alcohol. Some people disagree with the analysis and claim that people operating under the influence of alcohol remains a bigger problem than drugged driving. Driving under the influence of narcotics, safety experts say, requires further comprehensive studies, according to CNN. Regardless of whether drugs or alcohol were involved, driving under the influence of any substance is illegal and deadly.

According to a report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Administration and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, more drivers who were killed in car crashes in 2015 tested positive for drugs than alcohol. The report indicated that 43% of the drivers killed who were tested yielded positive results for a drug in their blood. By way of contrast, 37% of the motorists killed demonstrated alcohol in their bloodstream during that same time frame.

Marijuana occurred most frequently in the test results. In fact, Marijuana appeared 35% of the time, while amphetamines appeared 9% of the time. The remaining results were scattered and fell into an "other" category. No matter the substance that was found in the dead driver's system, each identified substance could have rendered the driver impaired.

Drugged driving is problematic from a law enforcement perspective. Whereas law enforcement agencies continue to utilize methods of detection for alcohol intoxication, such as breathalyzer tests, portable breath tests (PBT), and standardized field sobriety tests, law enforcement has not established a reliable test to determine whether someone is under the influence. Furthermore, alcohol consumption tends to cause physical symptoms, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and the inability to maintain balance. However, narcotics intoxication does not create a predictable set of indicators like alcohol does. Some drugs speed a person up while others slow them down, and drugs can have different effects on each person.

Law enforcement officers are not universally trained to detect a driver who is under the influence of drugs as they are to investigate a person they suspect is driving under the influence of alcohol. Moreover, determining whether a driver is operating under the influence of drugs is not easily accomplished roadside. An evaluation of a driver whom police suspect is operating under the influence of a narcotic should be conducted by an officer who received specialized training in spotting a person under the influence of drugs.

The study does have its limitations. Only 57% of all drivers killed in crashes were tested for either drugs or alcohol. The sample size might not be significant enough to accurately reflect the true percentage of drivers operating under the influence of drugs. The greater limitation of the study, from another perspective, is that the study only included drivers who were killed. The study failed to include drivers who were injured or were uninjured. 

While researchers can debate the limitations of the study, there can be little disagreement that any time a person gets behind the wheel without the benefit of all of their mental acuity and faculties, they endanger everyone on the road, including themselves.

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Category: Auto Accidents

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