New York City Personal Injury Law Blog

Drugged Driving Accidents and the Challenges of Measuring Impairment

Posted on Jul 21, 2017 in Car Accidents

When a drugged driving accident happens and victims are hurt or killed in the motor vehicle crash, injured motorists or their family members should consult with a New York City injury lawyer for help.  Unfortunately, drugged driving accidents are on the rise and, as NPR explains, addressing the problem is difficult because of the challenges that are associated with measuring impairment levels when motorists use narcotics.

Determining Impairment Levels of Drugged Drivers is a Tough Task

In 2015, 43 percent of fatally-injured drivers who were tested for drugs other than alcohol were found to have some type of drugs in their system. When conducting testing among drivers involved in fatal accidents to determine if they had alcohol in their systems, alcohol was present in around 37 percent of motorists. This resulted in reports indicating that drugged driving had caused more collisions than drunk driving in 2015.

However, the reality is that it is difficult to assess exactly what impact drugged driving is having on fatality rates for the same reason that it is difficult to stop drugged drivers from driving while impaired. The problem is that levels of drugs in the system cannot be measured in the same way that levels of alcohol in the system can be measured.

Alcohol and drugs, including marijuana, do not behave the same way in the body. When you are intoxicated by alcohol, the concentration of alcohol in your body is fairly uniform. In other words, if you have .08 percent alcohol in your blood that is tested, you also have a similar percentage of alcohol in your brain. Your blood alcohol concentration levels rise as you become more intoxicated, so your BAC is the highest when you are the drunkest.

With drugs, on the other hand, the effects on the body are different than with alcohol.  When a motorist uses cannabis, for example, the active ingredient that has the mind-altering effect is THC. But, THC levels aren’t uniform in the body after a person uses cannabis. It is possible for there to be THC in the brain, but not to have any THC in the blood at the same time – which means a blood test would not necessarily reveal that someone was impaired by cannabis use, even if the THC was affecting brain function at the time.

The AAA Foundation warns that legal limits for THC levels in the body, which have been put in place in some states to try to stop drugged driving, do not have any scientific basis. In states where THC levels are used to determine if someone is driving impaired or not, AAA Foundation indicates that the limits that are set by law are arbitrary.

This makes it harder to collect data on collisions, and also leaves states without a scientific way to establish laws that determine if a driver is too impaired to be safe behind the wheel.  Unfortunately, this means motorists continue to be at serious risk of accidents due to drugged drivers who aren’t necessarily stopped in their dangerous behaviors by ineffective laws.  Victims of collisions caused by these drugged drivers should consult with a New York City injury lawyer to find out about their options for holding drugged drivers accountable for causing harm. Let Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff help.

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