Driving under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous. Drugs that can affect the ability to drive include both illegal and legal drugs.
A new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study shows that drugged driving may be more widespread than previously believed.
Troubling NHTSA Numbers
The NHTSA study, “Drug Involvement of Fatally Injured Drivers,” shows that drug use in deceased drivers increased from 13 percent to 18 percent from 2005 to 2009. This figure represents drivers who died in car accidents and were subsequently tested for drugs. The study does not indicate whether the drugs caused the crashes or if the drivers were impaired by the drugs.
According to a NHTSA press release, Administrator David Strickland said, “[O]ne fact is indisputable. If you are taking any drugs that might impair your ability to drive safely, then you need to put common sense and caution to the forefront, and give your keys to someone else.”
Colorado’s High Rates of Drugged Driving
The NHTSA study states that nearly a quarter of fatally injured Colorado drivers who were tested had drugs in their systems. This is higher than the national average of 18 percent.
A recent Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality report, entitled “National Survey on Drug Use and Health,” found that Colorado is in the top 10 states for drugged driving. While drunk driving is a more visible issue, drugged driving continues to be a serious problem. Fifteen percent of Colorado motorists drove while under the influence of alcohol in 2009 – and 20 percent of drunk drivers were also under the influence of drugs.
Holding Drivers Accountable
Drivers who use drugs do not put just themselves at risk – they put every driver, motorcyclist, bicyclist and pedestrian at risk as well. The alarming number of drivers using illegal and prescription drugs that could alter their ability to drive means that Colorado roads are not as safe as they should be.
Colorado law specifically bans drugged driving, but the rising occurrence of drugged driving indicates that stronger enforcement should occur.
As NHTSA Administrator Strickland commented, “It doesn’t matter if it’s drugs or alcohol, if you’re impaired, don’t drive.”
Contact an Attorney
If you have been injured by a driver who was under the influence of drugs, or if you have lost a loved one to a drugged driver, you may be able to use the law to hold the negligent driver accountable. An experienced Colorado personal injury attorney can advise you if you can seek compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages and other damages.