The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a new study regarding how many drivers are driving on our roadways while under the influence of drugs (as opposed to those driving drunk or under the influence of alcohol).
In a survey done across the country, where volunteers agree to be tested by researchers by a number of roadside “voluntary for research study up ahead” signs, anonymous drivers were tested by agency researchers. This was done as part of the National Roadside Survey, something that has been done by the federal government 5 times in the past half-century.
The NHTSA has discovered that more and more drivers are getting behind the wheel after taking prescription drugs or smoking pot. The NHTSA Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers reports that in 2014, almost 1 in 4 drivers tested POSITIVE for at least one drug that could impact the ability of the driver to safely operate a motor vehicle.
In data gathered during their study done during 2013–2014, 20% of the weekend nighttime drivers turned up positive for drugs. Of the drugs found, the most common was THC, the intoxicant found in marijuana. As for drivers under the influence of marijuana, the number rose 50%.
From NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, “…the latest Roadside Survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety. The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes.”
How dangerous is the marijuana-influenced driver? Very.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse:
“Accident-involved drivers with THC in their blood, particularly higher levels, are three to seven times more likely to be responsible for the accident than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol. The risk associated with marijuana in combination with alcohol appears to be greater than that for either drug by itself.”
What does this mean for drivers in Indiana and Illinois?
For those involved in car accidents or crashes involving big rigs, semis, minivans, or other motor vehicles, it’s important to know if the driver responsible for your accident and your injuries was under the influence of drugs, particularly marijuana, at the time of the crash. This may be more difficult to prove with admissible evidence than someone driving while drunk on alcohol because it is not as easy to test drivers at the scene of the accident for marijuana as it is for BAC (blood alcohol content).
While technologies are being advanced for use by local law enforcement, things like Breathalizers are not available for police to test drivers for pot after an accident has occurred.
Knowing that there is a 20% chance that the driver in your accident may have been under the influence of marijuana means that there is much higher likelihood that marijuana or other drugs may have been a factor in causing the crash. It’s a factor to be investigated in your accident, something that may not have been the case just a few years ago.