Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) February 29, 2016 – Consider what happened to an unsuspecting motorcycle rider when a 21-year-old driver, traveling at a high rate of speed, ran up over the back of the biker, ejecting him to the pavement. The biker lived to tell the tale. The car driver was high on depressants, marijuana and narcotic painkillers but he was not obviously impaired, other than somewhat lethargic at the scene of the accident.
That case is one of the many just beginning to emerge across the nation. Highway safety advocates, law enforcement and the legal community are beginning to see more incidents of drugged driving. In Nebraska alone last year, 28 people were killed as a result of high drivers with impaired driving ability and clouded mental acuity.
According to the director of the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety, Fred Zwonechek, drugged driving is “clearly an emerging issue.” The most commonly used drug in drug-related collisions is marijuana. “With medical marijuana use growing across the nation, it would not be too surprising to see even more accidents should the legal user overuse,” said Lee. Twenty-three states have legalized medical use of marijuana and four have legalized recreational use.
The difficulty with enforcement lies in whether or not there is or should be a distinction between drunk driving and drugged driving, or whether or not impaired driving covers both offenses. For instance, in Nebraska impaired driving is impaired driving no matter what the driver has consumed/smoked. While the law may be clear, it is less clear when it comes to stopping drugged drivers. There are simply no validated standards for all of the drugs, street and prescription, known to affect a driver’s competence and there are no roadside tests to check for drug impairment.
Peter Odom of the National District Attorneys Association says, “The reality is drugged drivers escape detection. We don’t know how big the problem is, but we know it’s big.’’ The inability to detect a drugged driver is further compounded by how fast some drugs clear the body before they clear the brain.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a survey in 2015 of night time drivers and found 13 percent tested positive for THC (marijuana). When other drugs were thrown into the mix, both legal and illegal, the percentage of those behind the wheel and driving while impaired jumped to 22 percent. The one thing that is currently not being tracked with any regularity when it comes to fatal accidents caused by a drunk driver is confirmation of other substances in the blood in addition to alcohol. More often than not a drinker has taken drugs as well.
Drugged driving is a serious issue and it is likely to become even more so with the increased use of various recreational and prescription drugs. Driving is now becoming a high-risk task.
For further information on drugged driving, visit: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/drugged-driving
To learn more, visit http://www.lgrlawfirm.com
Lee, Gober & Reyna
11940 Jollyville Road #220-S
Austin, Texas 78759
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