A recent non-profit funded study found that positive drug test outpaced alcohol presence among fatally injured drivers in 2015. 43% of drivers who died in a collision were under the influence of drugs. The slightly outpaced the percentage of drivers killed who tested positive for alcohol. This is a first.
One complicating factor in addressing this problem is law enforcement's lack of uniform testing for drug related impairment. Law enforcement has long employed a fairly standard set of test to determine if alcohol impairs someone's driving. However, because marijuana and other drugs can affect people in different ways, it is difficult to determine impairment out on the field.
Other safety advocates viewed the study with some skepticism, claiming that alcohol remains the biggest highway safety problem. The study's authors, however, caution that the study simply points to the need to address "drugged driving," because of its increasing prevalence.
In one recent case in our office, two of our clients were seriously injured by a motorist impaired by both drugs and alcohol. Prosecutors relied on breathalyzer tests to confirm alcohol intoxication, and blood tests to confirm presence of drugs.
Toxicologists have testified that in certain cases, the combination of drugs and alcohol, or two different drugs well result in a synergistic effect, significantly enhancing impairment.
The study author and commentators both agreed that additional research on how to document drug impaired driving is needed.