We hope that 2013 has been a wonderful year and that 2014 has even more in store for you and your loved ones. As you make plans to celebrate the arrival of the New Year, our Oakland injury attorney hopes safety will be a priority. While celebration safety messages are often focused on the danger of drunk driving, we’d like to remind readers that the danger of impaired driving extends beyond alcohol. Drugged driving, whether involving legal or illicit substances, can threaten the driver, other vehicle occupants, and everyone else who shares the road. It is a threat we take seriously and, while our firm is here to help those injured by impaired drivers on Northern California roadways, it is a danger we know is best addressed by putting prevention first.
Holiday Season a Grim Reminder of Drugged Driving Fatalities
The Oakland Tribune recently carried a reminder of the very real threat of drugged driving. The story focused on Melanie Bassi, a Connecticut woman who lost her mother, father, and grandmother in a holiday season accident six years ago. Police reports show the driver who rear-ended the family had consumed Xanax, consumed alcohol at a level below the legal intoxication limit, and also evidence of cocaine use prior to the crash. Bassi has spent the past four years campaigning for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a group whose focus includes drugged driving. She speaks to both high school students and prior offenders, sharing the loss continues to overshadow the holidays. Authors of the report note that the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is working to reduce the incidence of drugged driving in the U.S. by 10% by 2015.
The Threat of Drug-Impaired Driving
In a discussion about drugged driving on the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website, the group notes that, much like the more talked about problem of drunk driving, driving under the influence of any form of psychoactive (i.e. mind-altering) drugs is illegal and unsafe. The precise effects vary depending on the substance, but these drugs all impair faculties critical to safe driving. Common effects include impaired motor skills, reduced coordination, altered sensory perceptions, diminished reaction times, a decreased attention span, and compromised judgment. With some substances, even a small dose can cause significant impairments. Marijuana and cocaine are among the substances known to contribute to traffic accidents, with opiates, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines also contributing to driver impairment. Legal medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can be as dangerous as illicit substances with pain relievers and sleep medications among the drugs that contribute to motor vehicle accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
Given inconsistent testing policies, a hesitance to self-report drug use in any form, and widespread confusion when it comes to legal and properly prescribed medications, it can be tough to pinpoint how many people drive under the influence of drugs and how many accidents are the result of drug impairment. A National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted in 2012 estimated that 10.3 million people (ages twelve and older) drove under the influence of an illicit substance based on self-reporting that they drove under the influence of one or more enumerated substances (including illicit drugs and certain prescription medications used nonmedically) in the prior year (for more on the study follow this link). This works out to include about 3.9% of adolescent and adult drivers, a slight increase since the prior year (3.7%) and a decrease from the 2002 estimate (4.7%). In a separate project, the NHTSA 2007 National Roadside Survey found that in excess of 16% of drivers during weekend nighttime hours tested positive for prescription, over-the-counter drugs. More than 11% of the tests revealed illicit drug use. Tests focusing on accidents are particularly prone to consistency hurdles, but a 2009 NHTSA study found at least one notable drug in the bodies of 18% of fatally injured drivers (an increase from a 13% rate in 2005).
Our Message: Prevention & Representation
The message our injury practice message would like the share with our community for 2014 is the message we’d like to share every day of every year: Be safe, be well, be attentive, and never drive while impaired. Sadly, not everyone hears (or heeds) this message. If someone else caused an accident that left you injured or caused the death of a close family member, call our Oakland accident lawyer for help getting the money you deserve, the money you need, the money you are owed.
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