Drugged driving on the rise, but alcohol still a deadly threat

A recent controversial report claims drugged driving deaths have overtaken drunk driving deaths.

Drugged driving is a growing concern, especially in the face of evolving marijuana laws and the ongoing opioid drug epidemic. However, according to MADD, a recent report claiming that drugged driving deaths are now more common than drunk driving deaths risks undermining recent efforts at combating the problem of alcohol on the roads. As NBC News reports, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility released the report, which, while highlighting the dangers of drugged driving, may also detract from anti-drunk driving efforts.

What the report says

The report looked at federal data from fatal accidents that happened in 2015 where drug and alcohol tests were performed on drivers involved in those accidents. The report found that 43 percent of those drivers tested positive for drugs, whether illegal or prescription drugs, while 37 percent tested positive for alcohol alone.

That drugged driving is responsible for a growing share of overall traffic fatalities is hardly a surprise. Marijuana-use has risen in recent years and legalization efforts for medicinal and recreational use of the drug may be contributing to the growing role marijuana plays in traffic accidents. In Colorado, for example, one study from last year found fatal accidents involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana rose from 10 percent in 2009 to 21 percent in 2015 after recreational marijuana was legalized in that state. Furthermore, the opioid epidemic and prescription drug abuse are also factors in the increased numbers of drugged driving deaths.

Alcohol still the biggest killer

However, as the Washington Post reports, there are serious problems with the report as MADD, which campaigns against both alcohol- and drug-impaired driving, was quick to point out. For one, the study was supported by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, which is a group whose members include some of the nation's biggest alcoholic beverage producers. That led MADD to worry that the report's authors may have been downplaying the prevalence of drunk drivers on the road as a way to shift responsibility for traffic deaths away from alcohol.

The report also risks giving the false impression that drunk drivers are somehow less of a risk nowadays than drunk drivers. MADD insists that alcohol is still "the biggest killer on the highway" and points out that the report claiming otherwise suffers from severe limitations. For example, the presence of drugs in a driver's system does not necessarily mean that he or she was actually impaired since drugs can remain in the body long after they have impacted one's cognitive abilities.

Hurt in a car accident?

Of course, drugged driving is a serious risk and one that everybody needs to be aware of. However, it is also important not to downplay the dangers that alcohol still poses. Anybody who has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, especially if that accident was caused by a driver who may have been impaired by drugs or alcohol, should get in touch with a personal injury attorney immediately. An experienced attorney will help accidents victims understand what legal options are open to them, including with how to pursue a claim for the maximum amount of compensation they may be eligible for.