Car Accidents Caused by Impaired Driving Are On the Rise
It is not your imagination if you notice more traffic crashes on roadways. Total traffic deaths hit a record high in 2021, with 42,915 deaths reported in 2021, over a 10% increase from 2020.
Drunk Driving Statistics
Drunk driving, driving while intoxicated (DWI), or driving under the influence (DUI) means driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.
Underage drinking is a problem and is responsible for drunk driving accidents. The legal drinking age is 21. However, 19% of teen drivers who were involved in fatal car crashes had been drinking.
Still, being legal doesn't mean being responsible. Over 50% of people driving while intoxicated are in the age group of 21-34.
In 2020, there were 11,654 drunk driving fatalities. And during COVID, alcohol-related crashes involving drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit rose from 19 percent to 26 percent.
However, in recent years, alcohol-impaired driving is not the only problem. With the legalization of marijuana in some states, there is a rise in traffic fatalities from drug use.
Drugged Driving Is Drunk Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a report that in motor vehicle crashes "just over 54% of injured drivers had drugs or alcohol in their systems, with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active ingredient in marijuana, the most prevalent, followed by alcohol."
The CDC claims that marijuana users were 25% more likely to be involved in a car crash than drivers who didn't use marijuana. And often, alcohol-impaired drivers mix alcohol and drugs, which causes impaired driving crashes.
And as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) points out, drugged driving can also result from prescription drugs, as 1 in 4 drivers tested positive for drugs that could affect motor vehicle safety.
For example, driving under the influence of legal and prohibited drugs is illegal in California. So even if you have a prescription for Vicodin or OxyContin or even use over-the-counter sleeping pills or cold medicine, if it causes impairment, you may be charged with a DUI.
And if you are taking drugs (prescription or otherwise), any amount of alcohol affects your driving capabilities.
Cali-Sober Isn't Sober
There is a new trend called "Cali-Sober," meaning people cut down or cut out alcohol or hard drugs but replace it with marijuana. However, as the Cleveland Clinic points out, marijuana use impairs motor coordination and judgment.
The NIH Cannabis Research Report cites that in two European studies, drivers with THC in their bloodstream were "roughly twice as likely to be culpable for a fatal crash than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol."
If You Are Pulled Over For a Suspected DUI
- Stay calm and remain in your vehicle. Turn off your engine so the police know you are stopped.
- Follow the police officer's instructions. Only get out of the car if the officer asks you to.
- Politely answer the officer's questions. They may ask to see your driver's license and registration.
- Do not argue or volunteer information. Only answer the questions asked.
- They may ask you to take a field sobriety test. A field sobriety test helps officers determine if there is probable cause for a DUI arrest. The officer will ask you to get out of the car and perform one or more physical tasks, such as a walk-and-turn or a one-leg stand.
- They may ask you to take a breathalyzer test. If you fail the field sobriety test, you may be asked to do a breathalyzer test. There are consequences if you refuse a breathalyzer test. You may lose your license or face jail time.
- They may ask you to take a mouth swab test. This is one way an officer tests for drugs in your system. If you refuse to take the test, you could still be arrested for being under the influence if the officer suspects you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. An officer may observe dilated pupils, slurred speech, drug paraphernalia, and overall behavior.
If you are arrested for driving while under the influence, contact an experienced DUI lawyer for help.
Car accidents and drunk driving deaths are avoidable if drivers have a plan. Before you get behind the wheel, ask yourself if your driving ability is compromised by drugs or alcohol. Or if you know you had alcohol or drugs, arrange for a sober driver to take the wheel.
- Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- 9 No-Nos at DUI Checkpoints (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Comparing State DUI Laws (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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