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Steven M. Lee, PC

The Dangerous Balancing Act of Impaired Drivers


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1/11/2016
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Over the last few years, you’ve likely received the message: drinking plus driving is bad! Whether you’ve experienced the effects firsthand, known someone who has suffered from an accident, or witnessed the numerous ad campaigns focused on it, you know that driving while impaired is dangerous and costly. You’ve probably also heard that if you drive while intoxicated, you’re going to get slapped with heavy fines and spend time behind bars.

However, although you may be “picking up what these ads are laying down,” have you ever wondered if anyone else is? Have you ever questioned if the ad campaigns and stiff penalties have actually been successful in decreasing impaired driving accidents?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has wondered.

As a result, the NHTSA has conducted a study regarding the effects of DUI education and campaigning over the past 40 years by monitoring the prevalence of drinking and driving throughout the decades—and the results may surprise you.

NHTSA 2014 DUI Stats

The most recent reports from the NHTSA study (taken from data collected in 2013-2014) provide the following DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) statistics:

  • The number of drivers who had blood alcohol contents over the legal limit of .08% has dramatically decreased by 80 percent.
  • Only about eight percent of nighttime weekend drivers and one percent of daily drivers were found to have alcohol in their systems.
  • Of the nine percent of drivers found with alcohol in their systems, only 1.5 percent of motorists were found to have blood alcohol concentration levels of 0.08 percent or higher. This is down about 30 percent from 2007 and down 80 percent from 1973.
  • Out of the 1,398 under-21 DWI fatalities that occurred in the U.S., 185 occurred in Texas. Although high in comparison with other states, the national average was still low.

The Other Side of Being Impaired

While the NHTSA study shows that it is clear that making drunk driving a matter of public interest has finally paid off, this isn’t necessarily the happy ending everyone was hoping for. In fact, as drunk driving decreases, a new trend has been emerging that is seriously disturbing researchers. That trend?—driving under the influence of drugs.

The number of drivers with drugs in their system—drugs that could potentially influence the driver’s judgment, awareness, and reaction times—has increased steadily to one in four. Driving under the influence of drugs is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol, yet the rate of drugged driving has increased a whopping 50 percent since 2007.

As over-the-counter medications are getting stronger and the battle over the legalization of marijuana is getting larger, the need for a clearer view on driver impairment needs to grow as well. The same Road Side Survey information that the NHTSA used in their DUI study has also provided the following drugged driving statistics:

  • The number of nighttime weekend drivers with evidence of drugs in their systems went up from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2014.
  • The number of drivers with marijuana in their systems has risen nearly 50 percent since 2007.
  • Drivers with marijuana in their systems are more likely to be involved in accidents than drivers who are completely sober from drugs and alcohol.

Two Sides, Same Dangerous Coin

Although incidents of drunk driving appear to be declining (at last), this doesn’t mean that you and your family are safe from impaired drivers. As the drugged driving trend increases, the risks of impaired accidents increase as well. As a nation, we’ve basically traded one cause for another and are winding up with the same effect—impaired drivers causing catastrophic traffic collisions.

Instead of continuing to focus solely on drunk driving, we need to address impaired driving as a whole. This means putting alcohol, medication, illegal drugs, marijuana, and any other substance that can distort cognitive abilities in the spotlight and off the roads.

Let us know your thoughts about impaired driving by sharing your opinions in the comment section provided. We’re highly interested in what you think and how you feel about the recent fluctuations in impaired driving habits.



Category: Car Accidents and DWI Accidents

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