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Is drug impairment behind the wheel as deadly as drunk driving?

Has drug-impaired driving become as much of a threat to driver safety as drunk driving? Recently published data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests this possibility.

To be precise: over one-third of people who died in fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2013 had potentially impairing drugs in their system. That percentage is about the same as those who tested positive for alcohol. Yet only 15 American states have zero tolerance laws prohibiting one or more potentially impairing drugs while driving. 

Does drugged driving impair a driver’s abilities to the same degree as alcohol? The research is not as conclusive as studies demonstrating the increased crash risk associated with various blood alcohol levels. In addition, various drugs can impair a driver’s abilities in different ways. Stimulants may influence a driver to speed or ignore road conditions, whereas marijuana might slow reaction times. 

Nevertheless, there are studies demonstrating marijuana, as well as most illegal drugs, might double a driver’s crash risk. When combined with alcohol, studies further suggest that marijuana use can greatly interfere with the duty of care that every driver owes to others on the road. 

As a law firm that focuses on personal injury litigation, we understand that it may not always be easy to determine the cause of an accident or who was at fault. However, evidence of drugs or other substances in a driver’s system may create a presumption of negligent driving in the eyes of a jury. We understand how to present such evidence in a way that utilizes its persuasive impact, hopefully resulting in a favorable outcome and compensation to the crash victim. 

Source: CNN, “Driving while drugged now just as deadly as drunk driving,” Carina Storrs, Oct. 1, 2015

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