Let’s start with the good news. It appears as though our country may be finally pulling ahead in our decades-long battle against drunk driving.
According to research from the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration in 2014, the average rate of drivers on the road with alcohol in their system has declined nearly a third since 2007, and by more than three-quarters since their first survey in 1973.
But MADD probably shouldn’t start jumping up and cheering quite yet. Why? Because the very same 2014 survey also discovered a huge spike in the number of drivers who are operating under the influence of marijuana and other illegal drugs. According to the study, nearly one in four drivers on the road tested positive for marijuana, prescription drugs, or other illicit drugs in 2014.
The survey also found that the number of weekend nighttime drivers found with traces of drugs in their system rose from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2014. Perhaps even more disturbingly, the number of drivers found with marijuana in their system rose by a staggering 50 percent. According to the study, the majority of drivers found under the influence of marijuana were young men—a demographic that is already at high risk for auto accidents.
As a nation, we should be proud of the huge strides we’ve taken in combating drunk driving in only seven years. The nearly one-third reduction in alcohol use among drivers in our nation demonstrates the huge impact that focused efforts and action from citizens and law enforcement officials can make when we work together.
However, the rise in marijuana, prescription medications, and illegal drug use among our country’s drivers poses a serious threat to the safety of our roads and highways. Driving under the influence of marijuana and other drugs can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol—and in many cases, it’s more so.
What Makes Drugged Driving So Dangerous?
The effect of drugs on our system can vary vastly based on the type of drug and the way the user’s body responds to it. However, being under the influence of any drug—whether over-the-counter, prescription, or illegal— impacts the central nervous system and brain, and will impair a driver’s ability to perform basic driving tasks substantially.
Below, we’ve listed some of the most common drugs that people use while driving and the way that they may affect driving skills.
Marijuana. Recreational marijuana use may be decriminalized and even legalized in some other states, but operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana is illegal and dangerous no matter where you are in the country. Marijuana can have a huge impact on a driver’s reaction time, eye-tracking ability, and attention span. Studies have also found that marijuana negatively affects a driver’s perception of time and speed, and ability to recall information from previous experiences. Drivers who are under the influence of marijuana are nearly twice as likely to cause an auto accident as those who are sober.
Cocaine. Although cocaine users may feel more alert, high accident rates among drivers on cocaine demonstrate that their reaction time is actually impaired. Cocaine can interfere with concentration, coordination, and vision, not to mention encouraging impulsive behaviors and decisions.
Tranquilizers. Tranquilizers—including those obtained through legal prescription—can produce a lack of coordination, altered perceptions, and drowsiness. Drivers who use tranquilizers often struggle with maintaining lanes, tracking, and noting roadside signs.
Hallucinogens. Hallucinogens, such as LSD and mushrooms, distort perception and mood by causing hallucinations and a sense of separation from reality. Driving under the influence of hallucinogens is incredibly dangerous.
Opioids. Opiates include illicit drugs such as heroin, as well as prescription drugs such as morphine, codeine, and oxycodone. Effects of this type of drug may include a slowed reaction time, reduced coordination, blurred vision, and delayed response.
Whether illicit or prescribed, the use of any drug while driving can result in devastating accidents. Drugs of any kind can impair necessary driving skills, such as vision, reaction time, and cognitive ability.
If you have been in an accident due to another driver’s irresponsible drug use, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, auto repairs, and overall pain and suffering. Consult with a knowledgeable Florida auto accident attorney who can help you understand your rights and get a fair settlement. By pursuing your claim, you and your attorney are not only protecting your right to just compensation, you’re raising public awareness to a terrible problem in our nation.
About the Author:
A partner at Lawlor, White & Murphey and a distinguished personal injury lawyer, Ben Murphey tries complex disputes that include civil appeals, maritime and admiralty claims, wrongful death, and labor disputes. Mr. Murphey has been recognized for his excellence in the area of personal injury litigation by being rewarded with a 10/10 Avvo Rating and named a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for the last four consecutive years (2011-2014). Mr. Murphey regularly tries cases in state and federal courts around the country, being admitted to practice before all Florida courts and the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.