Drug-Impaired Driving and Traffic Accidents in Florida
How big of a problem is drug-impaired driving in Florida? According to a recent article in the Insurance Journal, drugged driving may be a bigger problem when it comes to car accidents than some of us think. Indeed, “U.S. transportation safety officials sound the alarm on drug-impaired driving, calling for state and federal regulators to do more to tackle the growing problem as states grapple with prescription drug abuse and adopt a more permissive stance on marijuana.” Recognizing the problem of drugged driving, lawmakers and law enforcement officials in Florida are trying to determine whether marijuana use plays a major role in drug-impaired crashes, according to an article in the Tampa Bay Times.
What should pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists in Florida know about drugged driving and the risks of a serious motor vehicle crash?
Testing for Drugged Driving: What Are the Standards?
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has emphasized that drug-impaired driving is becoming a more serious problem in urban, suburban, and rural areas alike throughout the country. One of the difficulties in stopping drugged driving is properly identifying whether someone is under the influence of a dangerous substance while behind the wheel. To be clear, there is no “breathalyzer” test that determines a percentage of drugs in a person’s system in the same way that these tests can determine a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
The NTSB, according to the Insurance Journal article, “has called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to write standards for devices allowing police to test drivers for drugs on the roadside.” In addition, the NTSB has tasked the NHTSA with giving states more guidance for preventing drugged driving accidents. One of the issues the NTSB has is that current drug-testing methods are not “consistent across jurisdictions,” and as such, there is a salient need for uniformity, especially when rates of drug-impaired driving deaths are rising. The NTSB has alluded to drugged driving collisions caused by opioid use, as well as the legalization of marijuana in certain states.
How Marijuana Legalization is Affecting Drug-Impaired Driving Crashes
Looking at a cross-section of states—some in which marijuana has been legalized and some in which it hasn’t—an average of 22 percent of drivers have some type of drug in their system while driving, according to the NHTSA. In states with legal marijuana, a new report suggests that the rate of drugged driving crashes is particularly high. This report was issued by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and it determined that there were “5.2 percent more accidents” in states that had legalized marijuana than in states that had not done so.
Even though recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in Florida, the state has introduced a medical marijuana system. According to the article in the Tampa Bay Times, lawmakers have developed a campaign known as “Drive Baked, Get Busted,” which is designed to “warn Floridians it’s dangerous and illegal to drive while high.” The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has spent more than $3 million on the campaign over the last several months, yet commentators do not believe that it is likely to reach its intended audience.
Contact a Florida Car Accident Attorney
It is unlawful to drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol. If you or someone you love got hurt in a crash caused by a drugged driver, you should speak with a Florida car accident lawyer about filing a claim. Contact Lesser Lesser Landy & Smith PLLC to discuss our case with an experienced advocate.