Florida Drunk Driving Accidents are Not the Only DUI Concern
Florida drunk driving accidents are a tragic and very preventable type of collision – a type of collision that claims far too many lives each year. However, studies suggest that an increasing number of drivers are not only driving under the influence of alcohol, but also under the influence of drugs. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of fatal car accidents involving drugs rather than alcohol increased 55% between 1999 and 2009. Each year in California, about 1000 car accidents are attributed to drivers driving under the influence of drugs.
The most common drugs used before driving included marijuana, although car accidents caused by DUI can be caused by an array of both legal and illegal drugs. According to government statistics, 16% of drivers stopped in random checks across the US were found to be impaired by illegal or legal drugs. About 50% of these drivers were driving under the influence of marijuana. According to experts, drivers in 33% of fatal car accidents are under the influence of drugs at the time of the collision. In comparison, alcohol was a factor in 32% of fatal car accidents in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one major problem with drugged drivers is that there are no clear rules and standards about drugs and impairment. While blood alcohol level can be measured accurately and while there are standards for what constitutes impaired driving with alcohol, no such standards exist with drugs. Agencies do not have standards for what amounts of drugs impair a driver.
Police officers can administer a test that examines coordination, pupil dilation, blood pressure, pulse, and other factors. This can help determine impairment. But it does not help drivers determine what drugs and in what quantities constitute impairment. Worse, some drugs – even legal or over-the-counter drugs – may react with one another, leading to impairment. Some drugs, notably marijuana, may linger in the system for days or even weeks, making it even harder to set firm standards for impairment. Thirteen states currently have zero-tolerance laws for driving drugged. However, this also causes legal headaches, as marijuana and its effects on the body are less well understood than alcohol.
Another problem is that while there has been a great deal of education about the dangers of drunk driving, there has been relatively little information about drug use and driving. Agencies such as MADD have done admirable work in educating drivers about the dangers of drinking. However, many drivers do not consider medications, over the counter medications, and other drugs when making the decision to drive.
Currently, a number of studies are underway to help authorities better understand drugs and the effects of different drugs on driving impairment. As well, a number of agencies, including the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are creating educational resources to raise awareness about the issue. The hope is that researchers will eventually be able to develop a simple test – similar to the breathalyzer – to help authorities accurately analyze impairment from drugs. However, such a test may still be many years away.