Drugged Driving:  An Increasing Factor in North Carolina Fatal Car Accidents

For years, drunk driving was a major focus of law enforcement and public safety officials in the effort to prevent potentially fatal car accidents and injuries. While still a common concern on roads in North Carolina and throughout the country, attention has broadened as drugged driving becomes an increasing factor in these types of accidents. The use of any drug, including marijuana and prescription or over-the-counter medicines, can impair your driving abilities just as much as having several drinks, but preventing drugged driving presents unique challenges.

Challenges in Dealing with Drugged Driving

According to statistics released by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), approximately half of all drivers in fatal car accidents tested positive for drug use, surpassing alcohol use as a leading contributing factor. While these statistics give government officials cause for concern, the nature of drug use makes it more difficult than alcohol to combat. The GHSA lists six main issues in dealing with drugged driving vs drunk driving:

  • Identification: Alcohol is a single, highly identifiable substance. There are more than 400 different drugs in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fatality database.
  • Data: There is abundant research and data on the effects of alcohol on drivers. There is limited data on the driving effects of either recreational or medicinal drug use.
  • Use: Drunk driving laws and public service campaigns have been successful in convincing drivers to avoid the use of alcohol before getting behind the wheel, while drug use among drivers is thought to be on the rise.
  • Impacts: Impairments caused by alcohol are well documented. With so many different types of drugs and impacts that vary among users, it is difficult to measure the effects each drug has.
  • Risks: Crash risks with alcohol use is specific, while drugged driving risks vary depending on the type of drug involved.
  • Attitudes: Drunk driving has become socially unacceptable among the general public. Most people are still unaware of the dangers caused by drugged driving.

Efforts to Prevent Drugged Driving Accidents

While tackling drugged driving does present unique challenges, the GHSA is busy coordinating efforts among states. In addition to providing tools to help raise public awareness, there has been increased funding for tougher drugged driving laws and increased training among law enforcement so they can better identify drivers who may be under the influence of drugs.

Under North Carolina law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of any amount or type of drug or any combination of drugs and alcohol. Penalties for driving under the influence of drugs include fines, driver’s license suspension, and a potential jail sentence.

Unfortunately, despite the law, many drivers make the decision to get behind the wheel of a vehicle when they are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. There are more than 11,000 accidents in North Carolina each year involving a driver who is operating under the influence. These crashes are responsible for the deaths of more than 400 victims and leave at least 7,500 other victims with serious injuries.

Call Our Office for Legal Assistance

If you have been injured in a crash caused by a driver who was under the influence, contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to meet with one of our dedicated North Carolina DUI accident attorneys and find out what type of financial compensation you may be entitled to. Call our office today to schedule a free case evaluation.