Drugged Driving Traffic Deaths Surpass Drunk Driving Deaths

For the first time in history, deaths on roadways due to operating under the influence of drugs has surpassed those related to drivers under the influence of alcohol.  Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2015 reports that 43% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs, whereas only 38% tested positive for alcohol.  The report included those killed in vehicle crashes while under the influence of any substance capable of impairment, including illegal drugs, prescription medications, legal non-medicinal drugs, and medications bought over the counter. Though this data is not meant to undermine the dangerousness of driving under the influence of alcohol, it does show the need to bring increased awareness to the prevention and detection of driving under the influence of drugs.

What Led to this Statistic

NHTSA reports the number one drug of impairment was marijuana.  Overall, 36.5% of the drugged drivers killed tested positive for marijuana, followed by 9.3% who tested positive for amphetamines. There are a few factors corresponding with the rise in drugged driving deaths, including the nationwide opioid epidemic and an increase in the number of states which have legalized marijuana.  In fact, the report indicated a jump in marijuana related deaths in the state of Colorado by 48% since legalizing its recreational use. That figure should be taken with caution, since marijuana will linger in a person’s system for many weeks and does not necessarily mean he or she was intoxicated while driving.

Better Detection Methods

It is easier for law enforcement officers to be able to detect drivers under the influence of alcohol than it is to detect drug impaired driving and not all officers are trained as thoroughly in detection of drug impaired drivers. It is more difficult for officers to detect because with alcohol, key signs of impairment are fairly consistent from person to person.  An officer will look for these signs of impairment while observing the accused perform Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, and confirm with a blood or breath test.  With drugged driving, it is more difficult because each drug effects each person in a different way and impairment may or may not be detected by SFST’s, therefore further testing is needed. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association recently awarded the Department of Transportation with a $20,000.00 grant for increased training of law enforcement officers.  For Wisconsin, this will lead to almost 25% of the state’s officers to be trained in detection of drug impaired driving.

Be Informed

Drugged driving doesn’t carry the same stigma as drunk driving.  Many activist groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving make the dangers of drunk driving well known by highly publicized media campaigns.  The public is well aware they are taking a risk when getting behind the wheel after having a few, but many drivers are ignorant about how a drug will impair their driving.  Often times, those who are prescribed medications that may cause impaired driving are not educated on how those drugs will affect their driving ability.  It is important to fully understand how any medication will affect a person’s driving, and designate a driver if needed.

Get the best defense for your drunk or drugged driving charge.  Vanden Heuvel and Dineen has six offices conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin. Attorneys Nathan J. Dineen and Daniel R. Skarie practice 100% DUI/OWI and are available 24/7 to answer any questions or concerns you might have.  Call our local office at 262-250-1976, Toll-Free at 1-877-384-6800 or contact us online to schedule your FREE consultation today!

The information contained in this post was taken from the following articles:

Terrell, Ross. “National Drugged Driving Fatalities Surpass Drunk Driving.” Wisconsin Public Radio. WPR News, 27 Apr. 2017. Web. 04 May 2017.

Wisniewski, Mary. “Drugged Driving Found to Surpass Drunken Driving.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 27 Apr. 2017: 6A. Print.