The number of drivers under the influence of drugs who are involved in fatal car accidents has skyrocketed nationwide in the last decade, according to a new study analyzing the risks posed by drugged drivers. Specifically, the study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that 40 percent of all fatally-injured drivers tested positive for drugs - almost the same level as drivers testing positive for drunk driving.
The increase in the number of drugged driving accidents has happened quickly nationwide. In 2005, a total of 25 percent of deceased drivers tested positive for drugs. In 2013, that figure had risen to 39.9 percent, according to The Washington Post, one of several news organizations nationwide to report such startling figures.
The drugs involved in such accidents vary, according to the GHSA. Some drivers test positive to marijuana, which is legal for medical use in Washington, DC and 23 states, as well for recreational use in 4 states and Washington, DC. Other drivers test positive for powerful prescription pain killers.
What can be done to reduce car accidents caused by drugged drivers?
Jonathan Adkins, Executive Director of the GHSA, insists that the time for action on this issue is now. "Every state must take steps to reduce drug-impaired driving, regardless of the legal status of marijuana," Adkins said. "This is the first report to provide states ... with the information they need. And we encourage NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to issue guidance on best practices to prevent marijuana-impaired driving. We look to the federal government to take a leadership role in this issue similar to that of drunk driving and seat belt use."
Dr. James Hedlund, who authored the GHSA report analyzing the dangers of drugged driving, and the GHSA both recommend implementing a nationwide educational campaign about the dangers of drugged driving. They are also urging authorities to continue to rigorously test drivers suspected of driving under the influence in order to accurately assess the scope of the problem.
Kansas car accident lawyer Matthew L. Bretz of Bretz & Young Injury Lawyers of Hutchinson, Kansas, strongly supports such efforts. "This dramatic rise in fatal car accidents caused by drivers under the influence of drugs should be the alarm that wakes up society to the seriousness of this problem," Bretz said. "We as a country have done a tremendous job of educating the public about the dangers of drunk driving. Now we need to do the same about drugged driving."
"Drivers under the influence of drugs cause all sorts of accidents," Bretz said. "This includes the most common type of accident - rear-end car crashes. The risk of a driver causing a rear-end accident while under the influence of drugs is very real. Impaired drivers don't react as fast as sober drivers. That's why more needs to be done to put an end to rear-end car accidents and other types of crashes caused by drivers under the influence of drugs."
How can a lawyer help me after a car crash caused by a drugged driver?
The laws regarding medical marijuana, prescription drugs and other medications change constantly. Currently, marijuana use is against the law in Kansas. But efforts to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Kansas were introduced as recently as this year, according to KCUR radio.
The same news report on KCUR cited a study that marijuana-related care accidents would likely increased in Kansas if lawmakers decide to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Such findings were based on auto accident statistics in 14 other states that have legalized medical marijuana.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by a driver under the influence of marijuana or another controlled substance, it is critical that you have an attorney on your side who understands the laws in Kansas and knows how to investigate such cases. Without an experienced Kansas auto accident attorney on your side, you could jeopardize your ability to obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve.