Impaired driving has been a problem since the early days of the automobile. Through increasingly strict laws and public awareness campaigns, rates of drunk driving deaths on U.S. roads have gone down over the past few decades. Unfortunately, the numbers are still too high.
By some estimates, drunk driving accidents kill about 10,000 people per year in the United States. And although drunk driving has been declining overall, drugged driving has been on the rise. Medical marijuana states like California may be especially susceptible to such accidents.
A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association suggests drugged driving appears to be on the rise and could be playing an increasing role in fatal car accidents. The data in the GHSA report comes from a number of sources, including tests conducted on victims who died in car accidents. Such tests revealed that in 2013, some 38 percent of victims who died in crashes had potentially impairing drugs in their system – most commonly marijuana.
While marijuana seems to be the most common drug of impairment found in drivers’ systems (post-mortem and in voluntary tests), amphetamines and prescription painkillers were also fairly common. Of course, some of these drugs are legal while others aren’t, and it would be difficult to tell which drivers were taking them for medical reasons and which were abusing them.
Even if a drug is legal and taken as prescribed, it can still cause dangerous levels of impairment behind the wheel. In light of this, drugged drivers who are impaired and cause an accident could face a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in addition to criminal charges.