Two recently released studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate a significant reduction in drunk driving across the U.S. Driving under the influence of illegal or prescription medications, however, is on the rise and may represent the next major challenge for law enforcement and traffic safety officials. Drivers under the influence of marijuana constitute a large percentage of the cases of drug impairment surveyed by the NHTSA. For Houston auto accident victims, working with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney can provide added support during the negotiation and litigation process.
Understanding the NHTSA Studies
The 2013-2014 Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers was released in February 2015 and includes information collected from numerous traffic stops and voluntary surveys of drivers during various times of day and in a range of different geographical locations. Some of the most important findings from the Roadside Survey include the following:
- Daytime hours during the five-day workweek were the least likely times for drinking and driving, with only 1.1 percent of drivers testing positive for alcohol use during these times.
- Evenings and weekends are far more dangerous, with approximately 8.3 percent of drivers testing positive for alcohol consumption during the evening and nighttime hours of Friday and Saturday.
- By contrast, time of day and weekday or weekend status had only a minimal effect on the number of drivers who tested positive for the presence of drugs in their bloodstream.
- However, the type of drugs identified did change. Illegal drug use increased to a considerable degree during the weekend; prescription and over-the-counter drug use, however, remained relatively steady regardless of the day of the week or the time of day.
The second NHTSA study examined the crash risks associated with alcohol and drug use. While opinion is divided on the effects of marijuana use behind the wheel, a number of studies have indicated that its use may have a negative impact on response and reaction times that could make an accident more likely.
- Drivers who tested positive for THC, the active ingredient of marijuana, were from one to three times more likely to have an accident than sober drivers.
- Marijuana was the most commonly used drug by the drivers surveyed. Other drugs included prescription antidepressants, prescription narcotic painkillers, sedative drugs and stimulants. In general, the stronger the drug, the higher the risk of a crash when operating a vehicle under its influence.
- Drivers with BACs (blood alcohol concentration) over .12 were from 20 times to 200 times more likely to be involved in an accident as compared with sober drivers.
For drivers who have been injured due to the negligence of a driver under the influence of legal or illegal drugs or alcohol, working with an experienced Houston auto accidents attorney can provide added help in managing medical bills and ensuring adequate compensation for their losses.
Initiatives designed to combat drunk driving in Texas and across the country have had a positive impact on the number of alcohol-related accidents nationwide. The data released by the NHTSA may help to raise awareness of the dangers of drug use behind the wheel. Even legally prescribed drugs and over-the-counter medications can have a negative effect on the ability to concentrate and to respond quickly to changing road conditions. By taking steps to warn the public regarding the risks of driving while under the influence of these substances, public safety officials can potentially make a lasting impact on the number of traffic casualties and fatalities each year in Texas. For those who have already experienced injuries or losses due to negligent or impaired driving by others on the road, seeking legal counsel from a Houston auto accident compensation specialist can be the first step on the road to financial and physical recovery.