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U.S. Regulators Alarmed by Outbreak of Fatal Accidents Caused by Drugs

Driving the car around town by night | Fatal Accidents Caused by Drugs

Over the last decade, the incidence of traffic fatalities in which at least one driver tested positive for drugs has almost doubled.

With the number of U.S. traffic fatalities on the rise in general, federal data shows the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) has also detected a steady succession of drivers who are testing positive for illicit drugs and prescription medications.

The increase has been correlated to the movement to legalize marijuana, despite the fact that experts readily admit they don’t yet fully understand the effects of the drug on drivers. Recreational marijuana is now legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State.

Colorado’s highway safety manager, Glenn Davis concedes that Colorado’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana has very likely contributed to the rising number of fatal car accidents.

While recent years have generally seen a decrease in the number of deadly car crashes, the number of those crashes involving a drugged driver has steadily increased. Of the 31,166 deadly crashes in 2015, 21 percent of them involved at least one driver who later tested positive for drugs. That number is up from 2005 when only 12 percent of deadly crashes could be attributed to drugged driving, according to NHSTA. Only between 2014 and 2015, did that number fall slightly- less than 1 percentage point.

NHSTA administrator Mark Rosekind reports that drugs are becoming a more significant factor as a cause of accidents.

Further Reading: Parking Lot Slip and Fall Accidents – Who’s to Blame?

In an unrelated study of weekend, nighttime drivers, 15.1 percent of them tested positive for illicit drugs in 2013 and 2014, as compared to only 12.4 percent in 2007. Marijuana constituted the largest increase- 12.6 percent of drugged drivers in 2013 and 2014 up from 8.6 percent of drugged drivers in 2007.

Experts warn that the effects of drugs on fatal crashes is not yet as significant as the effect of alcohol. Drunk driving is responsible for nearly one-third of traffic accident deaths. However, many drugged drivers can be subject to arrest just like drunk drivers.

In 2014, Rodolfo Alberto Contreras was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for second-degree murder after running a red light at nearly 80 mph and killing a man.

While safety experts are concerned about the increase in drugged driving fatalities, proponents of marijuana contest the idea that use of the drug is causing more traffic fatalities.

Staff attorney, Jolene Forman, with the Drug Policy Alliance, supporters of marijuana legalization, warns against drawing premature conclusions about the effect of marijuana legalization on drivers. She wants policies to be based on empirical facts instead of fearful reactions.

That may be complicated by the fact that drugged driving research is scarce, many of the drivers involved in deadly crashes aren’t tested for drugs, and while marijuana is detectable in the bloodstream for weeks, its strongest effects dissipate after just a few hours.

Additionally, there is no standard level of impairment for marijuana and no widely accepted field sobriety test for the substance like there is for alcohol. A recent study conducted by the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator, found that a blood concentration of 13.1 ug/L of THC, the primary active ingredient in marijuana, resulted in impaired driving similar to a 0.08 blood alcohol content.

J.T. Griffin, the chief government affairs officer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving feels the best way to combat drugged driving is to intensify the work done against drunk driving.

While more research needs to be done to fully understand the effects of marijuana on drivers, everyone can agree that any type of impaired driving is dangerous.

Contact Our Experienced Broomfield Drunk Driving Lawyers

The Colorado personal injury lawyers at Hull & ZimmermanIf you or someone you love has been injured in a drunk driving car accident in Broomfield, Northglenn, Westminster, Thornton, or anywhere in Colorado, it is important to contact our experienced drunk driving accident attorneys immediately. At Hull & Zimmerman, P.C., our committed personal injury lawyers are dedicated to the belief that everyone deserves justice. Contact us at (303) 423-1770 or (866) 385-3505.

Our personal injury lawyers have extensive experience representing injured accident victims in Broomfield, Arvada, Superior, Lafayette, Louisville, Erie, Brighton, Commerce City, Northglenn, Westminster, Thornton, Longmont, and throughout Colorado.







At Hull & Zimmerman, P.C., we are honored to help accident victims in their time of need, and take our responsibility as personal injury lawyers incredibly seriously. We know how important it is for victims to secure the full and fair compensation they need following a serious accident, and that is why we take a hands-on, personalized approach to every case we handle.

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