“Don’t drink and drive.” “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” “Drinking and driving can kill a friendship.”We’ve all heard these clever catchphrases, designed to raise awareness that drinking alcohol and driving a vehicle simply do not go together. When we think of a driver under the influence, we imagine someone who has consumed too much liquor. Recent studies have shown that a more accurate representation of the average impaired driver must incorporate those who have used drugs before getting behind the wheel. The growing threat of drugged driving has prompted well-known nonprofit organization Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) to amend its mission statement and join the fight. According to MADD, “while the substances of drugs and alcohol are different, the results are the same – needless deaths and injuries.” Drugfree.org reports that drugged driving has increased while drunk driving has declined.
NHTSA’s National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers (NRS), conducted in 1973, 1986, 1996, 2007 and 2013-2014, uses a stratified random sample of weekend nighttime drivers in the lower 48 states to estimate the prevalence of driving after consuming certain substances.The 2013-2014 NRS surveyed a nationally representative sample of approximately 10,000 drivers in 300 locations around the country. The NRS found that the number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly one-third since 2007 and by more than three-quarters since 1973. Further, the survey found a large increase from 2007 in the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs, with nearly one in four drivers testing positive for at least one drug that could affect safety (including over-the-counter, prescription and illegal drugs). About 20 percent of drivers tested positive for at least one drug, almost 13 percent of drivers had evidence of marijuana use in their systems and more than 15 percent of drivers tested positive for at least one illegal drug. Knowing that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness, the second NHTSA study sought to estimate the crash risks associated with drug-positive driving. Billed as the first large-scale study in the U.S. to include drugs other than alcohol, data was collected from more than 3,000 crash-involved drivers as well as a comparison group of 6,000 drivers who did not crash. The study found that marijuana users were about 25 percent more likely to be involved in accidents than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, but warned that the increased risk could be due in part to the fact that marijuana users are more likely to be in groups at higher risk of crashes. In particular, marijuana users are more likely to be young men, which is a group already at high risk. The use of marijuana and prescription drugs is increasingly prominent on the nation’s roads, creating new safety questions. As noted by the study, “Understanding the effects of other drugs on driving is considerably more complicated than is the case for alcohol impairment. This stems from the fact that there are many potentially impairing drugs and the relationship between dosage levels and driving impairment is complex and uncertain in many cases.” Despite increased public awareness, drugged driving continues. If you or someone you love has been injured in a KY car wreck by a driver who had been drinking or taking drugs, the Johnson Law Firm can protect your rights. Call us today at 606-437-4488 or use our online form for a free consultation.