Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, May 31, 2018

"Drug-Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States"

HeaderImageThe title of this post is the title of this big new report released today by the Governors Highway Safety Association.  This press release about the report provides some highlights on its coverage and points of emphasis:

A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) finds that in 2016, 44% of fatally-injured drivers with known results tested positive for drugs, up from 28% just 10 years prior.  More than half of these drivers had marijuana, opioids, or a combination of the two in their system.

Drug-Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States presents new research to examine the impact of marijuana and opioids on driving ability and provides recommendations on how best to address these emerging challenges.  Funded by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org), the report found that among drug-positive fatally-injured drivers in 2016, 38% tested positive for some form of marijuana, 16% tested positive for opioids, and 4% tested positive for both marijuana and opioids.

While alcohol-impaired driving remains a significant threat to traffic safety, presence of alcohol in fatally-injured drivers is slightly lower than it was a decade ago, decreasing from 41% in 2006 to 38% in 2016.  Some of the strategies that have been used to address alcohol-impaired driving can also be employed to deter drug-impaired driving, yet drug impairment presents several unique challenges.  For example, there is no nationally-accepted method for testing driver drug impairment; there are an unwieldy number of drugs to test for; and different drugs have different impairing effects in different drivers.

Report author Dr. Jim Hedlund, former senior NHTSA official and nationally-recognized issue expert, explained, “Drugs can impair, and drug-impaired drivers can crash. But it’s impossible to understand the full scope of the drugged driving problem because many drivers who are arrested or involved in crashes, even those who are killed, are not tested for drugs. Drivers who are drug-positive may not necessarily be impaired.”

Adding to these concerns is the frequency of poly-drug use, or the use of multiple potentially-impairing substances simultaneously.  In 2016, 51% of drug-positive fatally-injured drivers were found positive for two or more drugs.  Alcohol is often in the mix as well: 49% of drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for alcohol in 2016 also tested positive for drugs.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2018/05/drug-impaired-driving-marijuana-and-opioids-raise-critical-issues-for-states.html

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