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Drunk and High Driving

We all know about the dangers of drunk driving and the accidents it causes on a daily basis. As a society, we’ve “cracked down” quite a bit in the past forty years and drunk-driving accidents (and resulting injuries) are steadily declining. However, amid the slow rise of both medical and legal recreational marijuana use in the U.S., there is growing concern about the potential dangers of “high driving,” and two studies recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggest that it has already been on the rise for some time.

The “Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers” gathers data and statistics of people who drive while intoxicated. According to its 2014 report, drunk-driving has declined by 75% since 1973, the first year of the survey, including a 33% decrease between 2007 and 2014. The latest report also suggests that only 8% of those driving during nighttime hours on weekends had drank any alcohol at all, and just 1% were found to be driving over the legal limit (0.08% breath alcohol level [BAL]). Ninety-nine out of 100 can be reassuring, but not entirely so, as drivers with a 0.08% BAL or higher are four times more likely to get into accidents than sober drivers, and the risk is twelve-fold for drivers with a BAL above 0.15%.

While we are fighting a hard battle against drunk-driving and have made much progress, “high driving” has seen a steady increase in the last eight years and many Americans are voicing concerns. In 2014, about one of every five drivers tested for drugs had at least one drug (legal or illegal) in his/her system, an increase from 16.3% in 2007. As some might guess, marijuana was the most prevalent drug and was found in about 12.6% of tested drivers, up from 8.6% in 2007. Many have attributed this to a growing acceptance of its use, primarily medicinally (23 states, 7 pending legislation) but also recreationally, as Colorado and Washington have fully legalized the drug and two more states are set to follow suit.

As the first state to legalize marijuana, Colorado has taken center stage in the debate over “high driving” and whether predictions of chaos on the roads would come true. In August 2014, the Washington Post reported that traffic fatalities in Colorado in 2013 and 2014 were below the 13-year average (since 2002) and highway fatalities had actually fallen to “near-historic lows.” Some researchers theorize that marijuana causes less impairment to one’s driving than alcohol, and substituting the latter for the former would lower the overall prevalence of intoxicated driving. Others, however, are unconvinced, and multiple studies have shown that the presence of marijuana in drivers’ systems is far greater in states which have legalized either medical or recreational use of the drug.

Many substances, legal and illegal, impair driving abilities when misused and lead to countless accidents and injuries every day. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving an intoxicated driver, contact Mike Agruss Law for a free consultation. We are a Chicago-based injury law firm representing individuals (and their families) who have suffered an injury in an accident. We will handle your case quickly and advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you.

Lastly, Mike Agruss Law is not paid attorneys’ fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. You have nothing to risk when you hire us – only the opportunity to seek justice.

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