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The Impact of Drug-Impaired Driving in the U.S.

Drug-Impaired Driving Is on the Rise

Drug-impaired driving is on the rise in Pennsylvania and across the United States. In 2016, 44 percent of fatally injured drivers who were given toxicology tests were found to have drugs in their system, according to a report by the Governor's Highway Safety Association. In comparison, only 28 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs in 2006.

Additional Stats

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 million drivers are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, illicit drugs or both each year. Meanwhile, drug-impaired drivers are currently involved in approximately 16 percent of all U.S. car accidents. In August 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration kicked off a new safety campaign called "If You Feel Different, You Drive Different." The purpose of the initiative is to help American drivers become more aware of the dangers of drug-impaired driving and to solicit ideas on the best ways to combat the problem.

What Types of Drugs Do Drivers Commonly Use?

The GHSA reports that marijuana was the drug most commonly associated with fatal car accidents in 2016. Some form of marijuana was detected in 38 percent of all fatally injured drivers while opioids were detected in 16 percent of drivers, and both substances were detected in 4 percent of accidents. This data comes at a time when more states are legalizing the use of medical and recreational marijuana and the entire country is facing an opioid epidemic.

More Drivers Are Mixing Alcohol With Drugs

drug-impaired drivingGovernment statistics also show that more drivers are consuming both alcohol and drugs before getting behind the wheel. In 2016, 28 percent of all U.S. traffic fatalities involved alcohol. However, 49 percent of all drunk drivers killed in car crashes also tested positive for one or more drugs. As a result, some traffic safety advocates are recommending that drunk driving and drug-impaired driving no longer be considered separate DUI issues.  

How Do Drugs Impair Drivers?

Studies show that marijuana can impair drivers' psychomotor skills and cognitive functions, including their ability to pay attention to the road, judge distances and coordinate movements. The drug can also cause drowsiness. However, it is difficult to accurately measure the amount of THC, which is the chemical compound that causes users to get high, in a driver's system. The impact of THC also varies from driver to driver. However, most studies estimate that marijuana use increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident by 25 to 35 percent. Drivers can also become impaired by using prescription or illegal opioids. Opioids, including painkillers such as OxyContin and fentanyl, can disrupt cognitive function and cause drowsiness. In fact, prescription opioid labels commonly warn patients not to drive, use heavy machinery or participate in dangerous activities after consuming the drug. Individuals who are struck by a driver impaired by marijuana and/or opioids may benefit from contacting an Allentown injury lawyer for advice.

Common Injuries Associated With Drug-Related Car Accidents

Victims of drug-related car accidents can suffer severe and debilitating injuries, including:
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Internal injuries
  • Abrasions and lacerations
  • Broken bones
Many car accident victims require weeks or months of medical care. Some victims are even left with a permanent disability. For instance, brain injuries can cause a lifetime of medical complications, including memory loss, speech difficulties, personality changes and depression. Meanwhile, spinal cord injuries could cause a victim to experience temporary or permanent paralysis.

Legal Assistance

Victims of drug-related motor vehicle accidents can learn more about their legal options by contacting an Allentown injury lawyer at Metzger & Kleiner for assistance. Our personal injury lawyer could assess your case and explain all legal remedies available. For example, legal counsel could help gather police reports and toxicology results that show the other driver was impaired at the time of the accident. This evidence could be used to file a personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation for your damages. Our lawyer could also negotiate with the at-fault driver's insurance company to strive to ensure you receive the maximum settlement to which you are entitled. Residents of the Lehigh Valley can call us at (610) 435-7400. If you're in Philadelphia, you can reach us at (215) 567-6616. Contact us today.

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