Are drugs really responsible for more road deaths than alcohol?

This article looks at whether drugged driving fatalities really have overtaken drunk driving deaths.

A recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility has garnered quite a few headlines recently for claiming that drugged driving is now responsible for more traffic fatalities than drunk driving. As the Washington Post reports, while the startling claim likely does reflect a rise in drugged driving deaths, it also risks minimizing the risks posed by drunk driving. Furthermore, critics contend that the study could have been motivated by a desire to shift blame for highway fatalities away from alcohol distillers and distributors.

Drugged driving outpacing drunk driving?

As NBC News reports, the study claimed that federal statistics showed that 43 percent of drivers involved in fatal accidents in 2015 tested positive for drugs, while 37 percent of drivers tested above the legal limit for alcohol. That led to concerns that drugged driving had overtaken drunk driving as a threat on the nation's highways.

It is true that drugged driving is a growing problem. The ongoing marijuana legalization efforts in a number of states, for example, have led to concerns about drug-impaired drivers becoming more common. Furthermore, the country's opioid epidemic has also contributed to the growing role prescription drugs are playing in impaired-driving deaths.

Alcohol still a major risk

However, it is important to keep the study in perspective. MADD, which campaigns against both alcohol and drug-impaired driving, was quick to highlight its concerns about claims that drugged driving was now deadlier than drunk driving. Such claims, the group noted, risked making it sound as though drunk driving was no longer as serious of a traffic safety risk as in the past. MADD also noted it was concerned by the fact that the study was funded by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, a group whose members include alcohol distilleries.

Furthermore, comparing drunk driving tests to drugged driving tests is a bit misleading. While testing for alcohol is a fairly reliable way of establishing whether or not a driver was impaired during an accident, drug testing is a bit more complicated. Certain drugs, for example, can stay in a person's system for days and even weeks after they are first consumed, meaning that their presence in the driver's system at the time of an accident is no guarantee that the driver was actually impaired.

That's not to say the risk from drugged driving should be underestimated. Indeed, the California Highway Patrol is training all of its officers to be able to detect drugged driving by the end of the year. At the same time, however, it is important to remember that alcohol remains one of the most common and dangerous threats to traffic safety.

Personal injury law

Anybody who has been hurt in an accident, especially if it was caused by an allegedly impaired driver, should contact a personal injury attorney at David G. Smith immediately. An experienced attorney can help clients pursue whatever financial claims they may be entitled to so as to assist them on their recovery process.