Although law enforcement officers have long suspected that drug use plays a major role in auto accident fatalities, no study has ever definitively found a correlation. In an evolving process, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a new study on post-mortem results of car accident victims.
The findings indicated a steady increase from 2005 to 2009 in the level of drug involvement among fatally injured drivers – from 13 percent in 2005 to18 percent in 2008 and 2009. Drug involvement did not necessarily mean that the drivers were impaired by drugs or that drugs played a role in causing the accident.
In 2009, researchers examined 21,798 drivers who had been killed in car accidents. Of those drivers, 63 percent were tested for drugs. Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data showed that 3,952, or 18 percent, tested positive. The drugs that were recorded were inhalants, anabolic steroids, stimulants, narcotics, depressants, hallucinogens, cannabinoids and phencylidiines (PCPs). The list included illegal as well as legally prescribed drugs and over-the-counter medicines.
Unfortunately, many states do not test drivers killed in auto accidents. There is no standard protocol for concentration thresholds required to determine if a test is positive or not. Jurisdictions within the same state might use different drug test types or test for different drugs.
While it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while impaired, there is no strong evidence to justify a standard drug level as there is for alcohol. There are a wide variety of drugs, and individuals have different tolerance levels for the same quantity. For alcohol use, all 50 states use the threshold of 0.08 percent as the blood alcohol level at which no driver may legally operate a motor vehicle.
The NHTSA continues to research ways to understand the correlation between drug levels and their effect on causing auto crashes. It has trained more than 6,000 police officers and prepared 1,000 instructors to be knowledgeable about the signs of drug impairment in motorists.
People who are injured in accidents by drug-impaired motorists may be able to pursue personal injury claims against them. Damages may include medical costs, lost wages and benefits, future medical and wage loss, as well as pain and suffering. To learn more, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today.