GHSA report reveals alarming rise in drug use by drivers

Police departments in California and around the country use breath testing equipment to reliably determine whether or not a driver is intoxicated by alcohol, but no such test currently exists to identify marijuana impairment. This is a problem because drug tests performed on motorists killed in accidents discovered traces of the drug 38 percent of the time according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The GHSA report indicates that rates of alcohol impairment among fatally injured drivers has actually fallen slightly to 38 percent in 2016 from 41 percent in 2006. However, marijuana and opioid use by motorists appears to be soaring. More than half of the drug tests performed on fatally injured drivers revealed traces of one or both of these drugs. The problem is made more difficult by a lack of reliable science linking THC levels with impairment.

The figures were compiled using data from roadside surveys conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the agency's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and they make sobering reading for police departments in states like California where the recreational use of marijuana is legal. In addition to dealing with the scientific uncertainties of marijuana impairment, police officers must also contend with a myriad number of illegal and prescription drugs that may or may not impair drivers.

The results of toxicology tests performed after serious accidents might be used by experienced personal injury attorneys to establish reckless behavior in lawsuits filed on behalf of those who suffered injuries. While elevated THC levels may not be enough to prove impairment beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal trial, the outcomes of civil proceedings are determined by the preponderance of the evidence. Attorneys may also use drug test results to encourage negligent drivers or their insurance companies to settle car accident lawsuits quickly.

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