Thompson Law Group, P.C.

Drugged driving surpassing drunk driving as a road danger


People getting behind the wheel while under the influence of an intoxicating substance is often the cause of a motor vehicle accident in Pennsylvania and across the nation. While alcohol is frequently seen as the main cause of these crashes, the growing trend of people misusing prescription drugs as well as the legalization of marijuana has made it increasingly common that fatal accidents will be due to a driver under the influence of drugs. The fatalities can be to the driver who was under the influence and they can also be to others who were driving another vehicle, were bicyclists or pedestrians.

A recent report citing statistics from 2016 shows that there was alcohol involved in 38 percent of driver fatalities. 44 percent were found to have drugs in their system. Just one decade earlier, that number was 28 percent. More than 50 percent of the drivers either had marijuana, opioids or the two in combination in their systems. A representative of the Governor's Highway Safety Association believes that part of the problem is the growing number of states that are allowing people to use marijuana. Also problematic is the ongoing opioid epidemic that is affecting people across the nation.

Anecdotal evidence and incidents in which law enforcement officials are unable to determine if a driver is under the influence of drugs even after making a traffic stop also contributes to the danger. In one incident, a woman who had used painkillers and sedatives was in a fatal accident less than 20 minutes after an officer had investigated a minor accident because he saw no indication that she was impaired. A man who was on his motorcycle died when a driver under the influence of marijuana ran a red light and crashed into his bike. Officers are receiving enhanced training to learn to recognize the signs of drug use.

Pennsylvania has seen a reduction in the number of drivers arrested for drunk driving, but a rise in drugged driving with more than 20,000 in 2018. Although much of this information centers around drivers who are killed under the influence of drugs, it is also an ongoing danger for people who are not driving on drugs or are drunk driving and encounter a person who is. A crash can lead to severe injuries, medical bills and lost wages. In a worst-case scenario, it can cause a fatal accident. People injured in a car accident and those who have lost a loved one due to a drugged driver may want to get more information about pursuing compensation for these incidents.

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