Drugged driving is increasing in Pennsylvania and nationwide due to a number of different factors.
Rates of driving while impaired by drugs are increasing both in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States, according to the Meadville Tribune. State data shows nearly 40 percent of driving under the influence arrests in Pennsylvania have involved drugs in recent years. Additionally, across the nation drugs have been implicated in as many fatal car accidents as those caused by alcohol. Officials say there are likely a variety of reasons for the increase in drugged driving, including greater marijuana use, heroin and prescription drug epidemics, and lack of public awareness of the dangers of drugged driving when compared to drunk driving.
A growing problem
In 2014, about four in 10 arrests for driving under the influence in Pennsylvania involved drug use. In total, there were nearly 20,700 DUI-drug arrests in Pennsylvania that year. Additionally, the number of fatal accidents caused by drugged drivers – which can include impairment by either legal or illegal drugs – in the state in 2014 was 114. In total, there were 395 fatal crashes in 2014 caused by drugs or alcohol.
The picture nationwide is similarly grim. According to CNN, voluntary roadside surveys conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that the rate at which drivers tested positive for illegal drugs rose to 15.1 percent in 2013 from 12.4 percent in 2007. A report by the Governors Highway Safety Association notes that 38 percent of drivers who were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2013 had drugs in their system, which is about the same as the number of deceased drivers who tested positive for alcohol.
Tackling the problem
There are a number of potential explanations for why drugged driving is seeing such a significant increase. Many analysts, for example, point to increased marijuana use, especially in states that have taken steps to legalize recreational marijuana. Additionally, the heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic is also being singled out, especially in eastern states.
Officials also note that tackling drugged driving is more complicated than tackling drunk driving. Breath tests for drugged drivers, for example, currently do not exist. Furthermore, different drugs impair driving in different ways. For example, while marijuana may cause drivers to drive too slowly and cause them to reduce their reaction times, amphetamines can cause them to speed up. Possible solutions to the drugged-driving problem include training police in how to recognize different types of drugged driving and making the public as aware of the dangers of drugged driving as many are already aware of drunk driving.
Whether it is through drugs or alcohol, impaired driving is always an inexcusable act. Impaired drivers not only endanger their own lives, they put countless innocent people in harm’s way. Anybody who has been injured in a crash that may have been caused by an impaired driver should contact a personal injury attorney immediately. Victims of impaired driving crashes may be able to pursue claims against the at-fault driver and those claims can be of invaluable assistance during a crash victim’s physical and emotional recovery.