New research published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows a nationwide increase in the number of drivers killed in auto accidents that tested positive for drugs. Of the drivers killed in 2009 with reported drug test results, NHTSA reported one third as having tested positive for either legal or illegal drugs, a 5percent increase from 2005.
The NHTSA warns that postmortem drug testing policies vary from state to state and not all victims are tested. The study estimates that only 63percent of drivers killed in crashes were tested for drugs nationwide.
The NHTSA report cites a variety of drugs, both legal and illegal. Unlike drunk driving, there is no research proving that the presence of a certain drug in a body’s system can impair a person to the point of causing an auto accident. Some drugs, like marijuana, can show up as positive on drug tests up to weeks after use, meaning that a completely sober driver could test positive.
For a person to be convicted of driving while drunk, they must have a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. With drugged driving, it’s not so clear. There is no legal limit for prescription drugs and there is no direct link between using narcotics and causing a crash. A drug’s effects vary from person to person, making it difficult to create a blanket restriction or legal limit.
Drugged Driving Laws
Drug per se laws have become popular in states wanting to prevent drugged driving fatalities. Twelve states have passed laws prohibiting driving with any amount of an illegal substance in a driver’s system. Five states have banned drug addicts and habitual users from driving altogether.
In New York, a person can be charged with driving while impaired if they are operating a vehicle while under the influence of a drug appearing to impair their ability to drive safely. New Jersey’s drugged driving law is defined as operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of any narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-forming drug or permitting another person under the influence of such a drug to drive your vehicle.
If you, a friend or a family member has been injured or killed in an auto accident involving a drugged driver, you are entitled to compensation for your physical, emotional and financial losses. Contact an experienced injury attorney for guidance through this difficult process.