In 2018, the majority of people know not to drink in drive. Thanks in no small part to a series of massive advertising efforts and updated drivers ed curriculum, most people know well before they get behind the wheel not to consume alcohol and drive. Unfortunately, alcohol may not be the most important thing to worry about these days. A new study from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) led to a startling report about the percentage of drivers killed in a crash who had marijuana or opioids in their system.
While drinking and driving remains a problem, it’s a problem that is trending down. In fact, the presence of alcohol in drivers who died in a crash is lower now than it was a few years ago. In 2006 the number was roughly 41 percent, as of 2016 it was down to 38 percent.
Comparatively, this new study, entitled Drug-Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States, found that more of half of drivers who were killed in an accident tested positive for marijuana, opioids or a combination of both.
When you look at the specific percentages the numbers get even more staggering. According to report, in 2016 of the drivers who were fatally injured in a crash 38 percent tested positive for marijuana, 16 percent tested positive for opioids and 4 percent tested positive for both.
Drug-impaired driving presents a unique challenge for law enforcement. While many of the strategies that have been so effectively used to combat drinking and driving also applies to drug-impaired driving, it still comes with its own set of challenges.
Former senior National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) official, Dr. Jim Hedlund spoke with the Insurance Journal about this issue, saying that “Drugs can impair, and drug-impaired drivers can crash. But it’s impossible to understand the full scope of the drugged driving problem because many drivers who are arrested or involved in crashes, even those who are killed, are not tested for drugs. Drivers who are drug-positive may not necessarily be impaired,”.
The bottom line is that the only safe way to drive is sober from all substances. However, the growing popularity of opioids and marijuana is certainly a cause for concern amongst drivers across the country. How law enforcement responds to this problem is a space worth keeping an eye on.