Drugged driving presents a deadly and complex challenge

This article looks at the rise in drugged driving and why it is such a complex danger to crack down on.

Over the past few decades, public safety campaigns highlighting the dangers of drunk driving have been largely successful in turning drunk driving into a social taboo. That, in turn, has helped drive drunk driving deaths down for most of the country. However, with so much focus on drunk driving, public safety experts may have had a blind spot to another deadly form of impaired driving: drugged driving. That's because, according to one study, drugged driving is now implicated in more deadly auto accidents than drunk driving is. Furthermore, drugged driving has proven to be a much harder problem to tackle than alcohol alone.

Drugged driving in fatal crashes

As NBC News reports, a recent study looked at data from fatal accidents in 2015 and found that 43 percent of drivers who were killed that year tested positive for drugs, both legal and illegal, that could impair their driving. By comparison, just 37 percent of deceased drivers tested positive for alcohol alone, which was the first time drugged driving deaths appeared to exceed drunk driving deaths.

Another study, this one by Columbia University researchers, came to a similarly startling conclusion. According to CBS News, that study found that male drivers killed in accidents who tested positive for opioids increased from less than one percent in 1995-1999 to over five percent in 2010-2015. For deceased women drivers, the increase was even more alarming: going from about one percent to seven percent.

Cracking down on drugged driving

To be clear, these studies do not suggest that drunk driving has become less of a problem and the fact that deceased drivers tested positive for drugs doesn't prove that they were necessarily impaired by them. That's because some drugs are able to remain in a person's body long after any impairing effects have worn off. At the very least, however, the studies do show that drugged driving is on the rise.

That is particularly alarming because in many ways drugged driving laws can be harder to enforce than drunk driving laws. Despite numerous attempts, there is still no widely accepted breathalyzer-type advice that can be used on suspected drugged drivers. Not all drugs impair drivers in the same way and a breath or blood test alone is not sufficient to prove that a driver was impaired. Instead, officers need to administer a series of tests before arresting someone for drugged driving.

Hurt in an accident?

Such complications show that drugged driving will be a difficult threat to contain, which is why drivers need to be especially vigilant while on the road. Anybody who has been hurt in an accident, especially if it may have been caused by a drugged or drunk driver, needs to contact a personal injury attorney right away. Accident victims are often entitled to compensation for their ordeal and an experienced attorney can help them file an effective claim.