Authorities are set to put an increased emphasis on the risks associated with driving while under the influence of drugs, as we enter the holiday season.
Our St. Lucie personal injury lawyers and wrongful death attorneys frequently post about the dangers of drinking and driving. What gets less attention, is the risk of driving while under the influence of drugs, whether prescription medication, illegal narcotics or over-the-counter medicine. Motorists will be at increased risk of car accidents in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and elsewhere in South Florida through the remainder of the holiday season.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports an 11 percent increase in drug-related crashes last year and a 19 percent increase in resulting injuries.
Those statistics agree with what the federal government is seeing on a national level, where the number of drivers to test positive for drugs after a fatal accident has increased from 13 percent to 18 percent in the last five years.
More than half of the 34 fatal accidents at New Year’s last year involved a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs. An additional 28 motorists were killed in Florida car accidents over the four-day Christmas holiday. Nationwide, 3,952 of the 21,798 drivers fatally injured last year tested positive for drugs. However, fewer than 14,000 were even tested, making the positive rate 18 percent for those drivers who were tested.
“Every driver on the road has a personal responsibility to operate his or her vehicle with full and uncompromised attention on the driving task,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “Today’s report provides a warning signal that too many Americans are driving after having taken drugs, not realizing the potential for putting themselves and others on the highway at risk.”
The government notes that not everyone with drugs in their system was driving impaired. Unlike alcohol, drugs can remain in the system for days or even weeks after being ingested. And it’s not just illegal narcotics the government is worried about, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medication can also lead to driver impairment.
“While it’s clear that science and state policies regarding drugs and driving are evolving, one fact is indisputable. If you are taking any drugs that might impair your ability to drive safely, then you need to put common sense and caution to the forefront, and give your keys to someone else. It doesn’t matter if its drugs or alcohol, if you’re impaired, don’t drive,” Administrator Strickland warned.
Freeman & Mallard is a South Florida personal injury and wrongful death law firm dedicated to helping motorists who have been injured in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and the Port St. Lucie/Fort Pierce areas. Call today for a free consultation. 1-800-529-2368.