We all know driving drunk or high causes car accidents. The good news is that fewer people are driving while drunk or under the influence of alcohol. The bad news is that more of them are driving under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs. This mixed news comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has issued the 2014 results from its Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers.
About 8% of drivers were found to have alcohol in their system during weekend nighttime hours. Just over 1% were found to have 0.08 percent or higher breath alcohol levels, which is the legal limit across the United States. This is down by about 30% from the last time the NHTSA did this kind of survey in 2007 and down 80% from the first survey, done in 1973. But the same survey found a large increase in the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs. In the 2014 survey, nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety. The number of weekend nighttime drivers who had evidence of drugs in their system climbed from just over 16.3% in 2007 to 20% in 2014. The number of drivers with marijuana in their system rose by nearly 50%.
The reports are consistent with another study released in June by Public Health Reports. This study found that since 1993, the profile of a drugged driver has changed significantly. More drivers are now testing positive for prescription drugs, cannabis, and multiple drugs, and they are more likely to be older than 50. The Public Health Reports study author, Fernando Wilson, PhD, associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, found that the percentage of drugged drivers with three or more drugs in their system nearly doubled from 1993 to 2010, increasing from 11.5 percent to 21.5 percent.
NHTSA conducted a second survey to see whether marijuana use by drivers is associated with a greater risk of car crashes. It found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, but this may be because they tend to be in groups at higher risk of crashes. Marijuana users are more likely to be young men, a group already at high risk. “Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness,” said Jeff Michael, NHTSA’s associate administrator for research and program development. The study, conducted in Virginia Beach, Va., gathered data over a 20-month period from more than 3,000 drivers who were involved in crashes, as well as a comparison group of 6,000 drivers who did not crash. The study found that drivers who had been drinking above the 0.08 percent legal limit had about 4 times the risk of crashing as sober drivers and those with blood alcohol levels at 0.15 percent or higher had 12 times the risk.
Remember, be safe and don’t drive if you’re impaired. Whether you have drank too many drinks or taken a drug that impairs you, you can go to jail for driving while influenced. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, contact Brannon & Brannon for a free consultation.