Developments in Fight against Drugged Driving Accidents

Developments in Fight against Drugged Driving Accidents

New Devices to Fight Drugged Driving

In our previous post, we discussed actions that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is taking in the national fight against the growing epidemic of fatal and serious distracted driving accidents.

NHTSA is working to install blocks on phones to prevent drivers from accessing their apps while their car is in motion.  NHTSA is also focused on getting car makers to place blocks within their installed technology to decrease distractions for the driver.

Rising Number of Drugged Driving Deaths

NHTSA research also shows there is a staggering rise in the number of drivers who are driving alongside us on roads, streets, highways, and interstates while under the influence of marijuana and other drugs.

In 2015, 21% of the nation’s fatal motor vehicle accidents involved a drugged driver, according to NHTSA research.  Ten years prior, it was a factor in only 12% of U.S. car crash fatalities.

Drugged drivers are getting behind the wheel after ingesting both prescription medications as well as illegal drugs.  They are driving impaired and risking a serious accident or fatal crash.

It’s reported that drugs are showing up 7 TIMES MORE OFTEN than alcohol in drivers who have been pulled over and tested while driving on a weekend night (Friday, Saturday).

Here’s a scary example of what researchers are finding:  the Maryland Shock Trauma Center found 51% of the sample tested positive for illegal drugs, compared to 34% who tested positive for alcohol when they sampled drivers brought into their facilities after an accident.

How Drugs Impair Driving

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) studies the impact of drugs on the human brain.  Their research shows the following:

  • Marijuana slows the driver’s reaction time;
  • Marijuana can impact the ability of the driver to judge time and distance;
  • Marijuana can decrease the driver’s coordination;
  • Cocaine can encourage the driver to drive aggressively;
  • Meth (methamphetamine) can encourage the driver to drive aggressively ;
  • Cocaine can encourage the driver to drive recklessly;
  • Meth (methamphetamine) can encourage the driver to drive recklessly;
  • Sedatives (benzodiazepines) can cause the driver to get drowsy or dizzy.

Specific studies have been done on drivers driving a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.  The NIDA research here reveals that these drivers are more likely to weave between lanes; have poor reaction time; and pay less attention to driving their vehicle.

Devices to Block Drugged Driving

With the increasing popularity of state legalization of marijuana, there is an even greater concern over serious and fatal auto accidents involving drugged driving.

Most drugged driving involves marijuana, according to NHTSA.  However, there’s no set standard much less a legal limit on marijuana as there is for alcohol, with legal limits at 0.08% blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) for both Indiana and Illinois.  Additionally, there is no testing that is readily accepted to check for impaired driving as there is for a drunk driver.

  1. Phone Apps

This may be changing, however.  Right now, a device has been developed by a professor at the University of Massachusetts which will test a driver’s marijuana impairment via a phone app.  It’s a kind of field sobriety app involving a tablet or phone.

Another phone app designed to combat drugged driving is the Canary app.  The app is available for free from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

  1. Saliva Test: the “Potalyzer”

Two weeks ago, Stanford University announced a new saliva test for marijuana levels in the human body, which they have dubbed the “potalyzer.”  The intended use is for police officers who have pulled over a driver suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana.

The officer could take a swab of the driver’s mouth, test the saliva in the device, and learn the levels of THC (the active chemical in marijuana) within three minutes.

Driver Dangers: Distractions and Drugs

It’s true that distracted driving is a serious danger to anyone driving the roads of Indiana and Illinois (as well as the rest of the United States).  However, fatal traffic accidents are also increasing based upon another rising driver danger:  the drugged or impaired driver.

Proving Distractions or Drugs in a Fatal Accident

Both distracted driving and drugged driving share two common characteristics.  First, they are causing a shocking number of deaths each year on American roads.  Second, they are harder to prove as the reason for the accident than other kinds of fatal crashes.

Evidence of impaired driving from drugs is not as easy to determine as drunk driving, for example.

All too often, drivers are able to drive while under the influence of drugs without the same level of law enforcement as those who opt to drive after drinking.

Another real problem in accident cases is the absence of prompt testing of drivers after serious or fatal accidents for levels of prescription drugs, illegal drugs, and marijuana in their systems.

This month, December 2016, has been named National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, 2016, by President Obama.  Sadly, the current reality we all face is that drugged driving is a growing threat to all of us, and we are far from finding solutions to impaired driving accidents.

Devices designed to stop these kinds of accidents need to be able to show when the driver was acting irresponsibly as well as working to prevent the negligence in the first place. 

Drugged driving is a serious danger to drivers in Indiana and Illinois.  Let’s be careful out there!



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