Now that opioid addiction has been declared a national epidemic, it should come as no surprise that drugged driving has increased as well. Although drunk driving is still an issue that many police officers and legislators are combating nationwide, the increase in social acceptance of using marijuana and prescribed medications is making driving under the influence of drugs hard to combat. Statistics from the Michigan State Police (MSP) speak for themselves with "fatal drunken-driving crashes across the state down 36%, while those caused by people impaired by drugs have risen 263%."
"Drunk driving is no longer socially acceptable, but drugged driving is socially acceptable because people don't think it's a problem...I fault the pharmacists and the doctors. They do not do a good job of educating their patients about these drugs," said Candace Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and We Save Lives.
Drugged Driving Statistics
According to a report released by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility and the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 43% of motorists that have been fatally injured as a result of a car accident are known to have tested positive for drugs in their system. This number that is surprisingly higher than the 37% of drivers that have tested positive for alcohol in their system after a fatal car crash.
Another scary fact, is that unlike drunk driving, drugged driving has been shown to occur at any time of the day, not just at night or on the weekends, like most predictable drunk driving accidents. According to the Detroit Free Press, The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute collected data from 2011 to 2015 in order to prove there was a correlation between the time of day a drugged driving car crash took place and the results of the driver operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs.
"Alcohol-involved crashes are very concentrated late at night and on weekends when bars close, but drug-involved crashes seem to occur at all times of day." said Carol Flannagan, a research associate professor at The Transportation Research Institute.
Drugged driving has grown to be such a major issue on the roads in Michigan that a roadside drug testing pilot has been planned to roll out before the end of this year in 5 undisclosed counties. The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC blog previously discussed the drug testing pilot program.
Michigan Roadside Drug Testing Pilot
Since drugged driving is so hard to convict due to most drivers using drugs that were prescribed to them, Michigan law has allowed for a driver to be legally persecuted if a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) can prove that the drug(s) impaired their driving. The roadside drug testing pilot will only allow for state approved DREs to identify drivers who may be driving while under the influence of an abused substance and request an oral sample that will be sent off to an independent lab to be tested. If a driver is found guilty, legal repercussions include but are not limited to 15 years in prison, community service, and thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees, according to The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS). The reason behind such harsh punishments is to drive home the seriousness of driving under the influence of drugs (DUID).
The roadside drug testing pilot was influenced in part by a drugged driving car crash took place in Escanaba, Michigan involving a truck driver under the influence of THC, a chemical often found in marijuana. The high driver crashed into an elderly couple,Thomas and Barbara Swift, both 73, on the highway. Thomas died at the scene of the crime whereas Barbara died 3 days later succumbing to her injuries in a hospital. Their son, Thomas Swift, proposed a bill in memory of his parents and Governor Rick Snyder later passed the bill as law. A second case that highlighted the severity of drugged driving made international news after a driver in a pickup sped erratically in Kalamazoo, Michigan and killed 5 bicyclists before police could arrest him. The driver was identified as Thomas Pickett Jr., 50, and was found not to have alcohol in his system as expected, but methamphetamines, painkillers, and muscle relaxers. He was charged with 14 felonies and is facing trial this year.
With data showing that drugged driving happens throughout the day coupled with the knowledge that 10 million Americans, 12 years and older, have admitted in a 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health that they have driven under the influence of drugs, it is enough to scare anyone away from driving. However, people should have faith that the roadside drug testing pilot, once implemented, will hopefully decrease and deter the number of car crashes caused by people driving under the influence of drugs or alchohol. Then, Michiganders will only have to worry about horrible Michigan winters cuasing them road trouble.
It is sad that medications meant to help people handle their illness are oftentimes abused, not only by the prescribed user, but possibly by loved ones too. Until pharmaceutical companies, patients, and lawmakers can come together to figure out how to properly handle this growing epidemic, drugged driving accidents will continue to be a problem motorists face on the roadways. Have you been hit by a drunk driver or a drugged driver? Call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC at 844.4MI.FIRM today. With our legal team by your side, you can hope to receive any compensation you may be entitled to under Michigan law.