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How often do drugged drivers cause car crashes?


In Maryland and across the country, drivers need to be vigilant of others on the road due to the potential for auto accidents to occur. These motor vehicle crashes can occur for a multitude of reasons including the use of drugs. Drivers who get behind the wheel after having used drugs are placing others in jeopardy. Understanding the prevalence of this issue can give other drivers an idea of what to look for.

Drugs can impair people in different ways depending on what was used. Marijuana may be legal in many places and treated indifferently by some, but the substance is known to reduce the reaction time of the user. It can impair their judgment and lower their coordination. Cocaine and methamphetamine fall into the category of stimulants. These can lead to recklessness, aggression and speeding. Sedatives might lead to a driver falling asleep at the wheel.

Surveys such as the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate that almost 10 million people age 12 and above have admitted to driving after having used illegal drugs in the previous year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's survey discovered that more than 22 percent of drivers who were stopped and tested came away with positive results for drugs. These drugs ran the gamut from prescription, over-the-counter drugs to illegal substances.

The frequency with which drug users cause motor vehicle crashes is largely unknown due to certain factors. These include an absence of tests to determine drug levels immediately after an accident, the number of people who have used both drugs and alcohol making pinpointing each substance difficult, and many drivers having more than one drug - or both drugs and alcohol - in their system, making it difficult to know which substance was more intoxicating.

A NHTSA study from 2009 discovered that 18 percent of the drivers who died in a car crash tested positive for at least one drug. Four years earlier, that figure was only 13 percent. Since drivers who were operating their vehicles under the influence of drugs can be so dangerous, it can be important to point this fact out if there was a car crash and the other driver was suspected of having been using drugs. Speaking to a legal professional about a case is the first step for a person who suffered serious injury or lost a loved one in a car crash involving a drugged driver.

Source: drugabuse.gov, "Drug facts: Drugged driving," accessed Sep. 7, 2015

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