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Report: 1 in 3 Young People Have Ridden With Drug-Impaired Driver

Public education campaigns have focused for years on the importance of appointing a designated driver if there are plans to be out drinking. However, that concept appears to have been lost to a significant extent among teens and young adults when it comes to the use of drugs by drivers – an increasing threat to road safety.

A newly-released study published in the latest edition of Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs reveals that 33 percent of recent high school graduates reported riding with an impaired peer at some point in the last year, being slightly more likely to ride with a driver impaired by marijuana than a driver who was drunk. Researchers said the takeaway here is that while so much of our efforts have been laser-focused on alcohol-impaired driving, perhaps we need to shift our focus more to users of other substances.

While 20 percent of respondents said they had ridden at least one time with an alcohol-impaired driver, 23 percent said they had been a passenger at least once with a marijuana-impaired driver and 6 percent with a driver who was impaired by other illicit drugs (i.e., cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, LSD or ecstasy). Researchers also examined whether the impaired driver was a friend or relative about the same age, a little-known or unknown person about the same age or someone who was older. Results showed the risk of riding with an impaired driver was much higher for peer drivers than it was for older motorists.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a new initiative intended to take on drug-impaired driving. The initiative is beginning with a national summit wherein invitees included state and local elected officials, policy experts and data researchers, law enforcement and criminal justice professionals, drug recognition experts and toxicologists. The hope is these partners will assist the DOT in developing a course of action on a reasonable timeline to help address the drug-impaired driving problem. Additional information on the findings of that meeting are intended to be released in the weeks to come.

Last year, the Governors Highway Safety Association released an in-depth report on the issue of drugged driving. Among those findings:

57 percent of fatally injured drivers were tested for drugs, and of those, 34 percent tested positive for a drug in the nationally-recognized list of 430 drugs and 7.5 percent tested positive for a drug not on that list. Of the 34 percent previously mentioned, 36 percent tested positive for marijuana and more than 9 percent tested positive for amphetamines.

Marijuana legalization – both for medicinal and recreational purposes – has increasingly gained steam across the country, with 29 states and the District of Columbia allowing it strictly as medicine. Florida is one of those, though the drug remains classified as a Schedule I narcotic by the DEA, meaning it is still considered highly addictive with no accepted medicinal properties. Florida has no “zero tolerance” or per se laws pertaining to marijuana use by drivers (meaning there is no amount in the system that indicates one is “over the limit”), though F.S. 316.193 prohibits anyone in actual physical control of a vehicle to be under the influence of a substance to the extent their normal faculties are impaired. The problem law enforcement has cited is that it requires subjective observations of the officer, which may not hold up in court.

The proof burden in civil cases is lesser than that of criminal cases, though, which means our Orlando drugged driving injury attorneys can still successfully obtain compensation for our clients, even if the criminal case against that defendant fails.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Emerging Adults Riding With Marijuana-, Alcohol-, or Illicit Drug–Impaired Peer and Older Drivers, March 19, 2018, Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

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