Laws that prohibit driving under the influence (DUI) leave open an important question: Under the influence of what? It is not just alcohol that is illegal: Driving under the influence of drugs is prohibited as well.
This is a good thing, too, because statistics show that drugged driving in Baltimore can be just as dangerous as driving while drunk.
However, just because drugged driving is just as risky as drunk driving does not mean that it is as easy to detect and prevent. Police have tools like breathalyzers and a legal standard for what constitutes driving while under the influence of alcohol – a breath alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%. None of these tools work to catch drivers who are under the influence of drugs, though. This leaves drivers throughout Baltimore free to get behind the wheel while under the influence of the debilitating effects of drugs, seriously increasing the risk of a car accident that can get you hurt.
Drugged Driving: Statistics
Driving a car while inebriated in any way is a risky decision: Even the smallest vehicles on the roads of America weigh more than 2,000 pounds and travel at speeds that can cause serious damage in a collision. Driving a car while under the influence of drugs, though, is especially risky.
One study, done by the British organization Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), found that people who drove while under the influence of marijuana had reaction times that were unsurprisingly slower than sober drivers. According to their numbers, drivers who were stoned on marijuana had response times that were 21% slower than the average, sober, driver. More surprising, though, was the fact that this was a larger decrease than drivers who were drunk: Those who were over the legal alcohol limit had response times that were only 13% slower than a sober driver.
The TRL's study focused on marijuana in large part because it is so common: Aside from alcohol, THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is the drug that is most often found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in a car accident. In fact, marijuana has become increasingly close to challenging alcohol in this sense. Numbers from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) show that 20.7 million people in the U.S. admitted to driving while drunk in the past year, compared to 11.8 million people who admitted to driving while under the influence of an illicit drug.
Despite the reduced response time and popularity of the drug, there are conflicting studies on the impact of marijuana on the likelihood of getting involved in a car crash. On the one hand, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) looked at insurance claims for car crashes in states that legalized marijuana, and found a 3% increase. However, on the other hand, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health looked at car accident fatality rates in Colorado and Washington both before they legalized pot, and after. This study found no difference in the two data sets.
Marijuana is not the only drug that can impair drivers enough to put others on the road at risk, though. There are plenty of other illegal drugs that make it more difficult to safely operate a vehicle, including cocaine and methamphetamine. However, there are also lots of perfectly legal drugs that can also impair drivers, as well. Some are even drugs that doctors prescribe for their patients, or that people rely on to maintain their health.
Nevertheless, if these drugs make it more difficult to drive, then the person taking them should make sure they stay off the roads while the drugs' effects are working.
Unfortunately, not many do. One study that investigated fatal crashes in the United States between 1993 and 2010 found that, out of all of the drivers involved who had tested positive for drugs, nearly half of them tested positive for a prescription drug, typically a pain reliever. This was more than the number of those who tested positive for marijuana after the crash.
Drugged Driving Statistics in Baltimore
The problem of drugged driving is a national one, and the city of Baltimore is no exception. However, studies and reports that focus on the national problem do not break down the problem of drugged driving into regional sectors, much less than by city. As a result, there are no hard statistics that relate just how badly drugged driving has impacted us in Baltimore.
However, there are trends that people have noticed. Chief among them is that fatalities from car accidents that were caused by drivers who were impaired by drugs have risen. The problem has gotten so bad that Maryland's Strategic Highway Safety Plan Summit focused on the issue of drugged drivers and their impact on road safety in our state. One of the key takeaways from the Summit was the need for more and better data on how drugged drivers operated and how they made the roads less safe.
Unfortunately, the lack of reliable data on drugged driving is not likely to get much better. Unlike for drunk driving, there is no set legal limit for what it means to be “under the influence” of a drug. Worse, there is no reliable way to test drivers for the presence of one of the thousands of potentially impairing drugs. Without a definition of what it means to be driving while “impaired” by drugs, and without a way to test drivers to see if there are any drugs in their system, drugged driving statistics will always be little more than estimates.
Baltimore Personal Injury Attorneys Gilman & Bedigian
If you or someone you love has had the misfortune to be in the way of a drugged driver, you deserve to be compensated for your losses. That is why the personal injury attorneys at the Baltimore law office of Gilman & Bedigian represent accident victims. Contact us online for the legal representation you need.