Even as the number of drunk driving deaths in California has gone down, the California Office of Traffic Safety is reporting that of the drivers that were killed in car crashes in 2010, 30% of them tested positive or illegal or legal drugs. These figures may be lower than what is actual, considering that many drug impaired driving incidents go undetected or unreported.
The reason for why the number of drugged driving deaths has gone up is not known. However, Chris Cochran, a state traffic safety official, told the Los Angeles Times that the rise in the use of and impairment from prescription drugs could be factors. The California Highway Patrol and the Office of Traffic Safety are joining forces to provide training on how law enforcement officers can better detect drugged drivers to stop them.
"Drugged driving can be incredibly dangerous," said Howard Law, PC founder and Anaheim Car Accident Attorney Vincent Howard. "Even if a driver was prescribed a drug by a physician and is taking it for medical or health reasons, he/she is still responsible for not getting on the road if the medication impairs one's ability to drive safely."
Then, of course, there are the motorists who use drugs recreationally and then decide to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Not only is it illegal to take narcotics, but also the user imperils the life of those around when driving a car.
Certain drugs, both prescribed and otherwise, can impair one's judgment, motor skills, and reaction time. Yet according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 16% of nighttime, weekend motorists that took part in a 2007 National Roadside Survey tested positive for prescription, illegal, and over-the-counter medications. Over 11% tested positive for illegal drugs.
In 2009, the NHTSA found that 18% of drivers that died tested positive for at least one drug. That year, about 10.5 million people (age 12 and above) admitted to drugged driving from use of an illicit substance the year before.
"Granted, the government and safety official are lacking in their efforts to educate people about the dangers of drugged driving, but that doesn't mean that an Orange County, California car crash victim cannot pursue personal injury or wrongful death damages from a negligent driver," said Anaheim Injury Attorney Vincent Howard.
One of the challenges of determining whether someone is impaired by drugs is that there is no easy test to find out if someone is high on marijuana or affected by medication. However, the consequences of drugged driving cannot be denied, as the motorist potentially becomes menace to himself and others.
What Is Drugged Driving?, National Institute on Drug Abuse, December 2010
Drugged -- not drunk -- driving steadily rising in California, Los Angeles Times, February 28, 2012
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