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Startling new figures from the Institute for Behavior and Health (IBH) have revealed the growing extent of the problem of drugged driving on America’s roads.

Drugged driving linked to many accidents

According to the figures, around 20% of road crashes that take place in the US are the result of people driving under the influence of drugs. This means that drugged driving can be directly linked to the deaths of around 6,761 people on our roads each year and is at least partially responsible for a further 440,000 being injured.

The IBH also claims that drug driving is becoming as serious a risk on our roads as drink driving, with a recent survey finding that 16% of weekend night time drivers tested positive for drugs compared to the 2% that were found to be at or over the limit for alcohol.

Driving While Drugged Is a Big Issue

People who take the decision to drive under the influence of drugs are acting negligently because their driving ability is likely to be impaired. For some people, drug addiction occurs when they need to take medication for a genuine medical problem, but end up becoming overly reliant on them, such as pain relief drugs like oxycontin. Many of these will eventually acknowledge the problem, either on their own or through the intervention of friends and family, and will undergo treatment to resolve it. However, for others the use of drugs such as marijuana is recreational and too many refuse to acknowledge that their drug use can impact on their ability to drive. As a result, too many innocent victims lose their lives or suffer serious injury on the roads because of a drugged driver’s inability to safely drive their vehicle.

Teenagers at increased risk

Many people can underestimate the impact of drugs on driving ability, and this problem is particularly prevalent amongst teenagers.

A recent survey by insurance company Liberty Mutual found that around 23% of teenagers admitted that they have driven while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. With the latest Census data revealing that there are around 13 million teenagers currently driving, this means that there could be up to three million teenagers driving under the influence on our roads. The problem is compounded by the fact that, as an age group, teenagers generally have the least driving experience and are already at greater risk of death or serious injury. When drugged driving is added into the mix, the consequences can become even more tragic.

It is therefore very troubling to read that around 91% of teenagers would describe themselves as “safe or cautious” drivers because they apparently don’t consider that alcohol or drugs detract from their driving ability. Of the teenagers who admitted to driving after taking marijuana, as many as 75% felt that the drug either had not impacted on their driving or had in fact made them better drivers.

Unfortunately however, the statistics would suggest that this perception is very misguided. According to recent figures from the Governors Highway Safety Association, the first six months of 2012 saw a worrying 19% increase in the number of 16 and 17-year-olds dying in road crashes.

“The fact that an overwhelming number of teens admit to extremely unsafe driving habits and completely dismiss any risk concern yet still consider themselves safe drivers means either teens have a different definition of ‘safe’ or we need to do a better job of educating kids about the dangers of this type of behavior,” commented Dave Melton, a driving safety expert with Liberty Mutual Insurance and managing director of global safety.

Tackling the problem

Drugs can affect cognitive functions, which in turn will affect a driver’s reaction times and ability to make sound judgments while driving. As a result, drugged driving is becoming a major public health concern, because of the danger a drugged driver poses, not only to himself but also to his passengers and other road users. Too many innocent victims and their families have had their lives torn apart because another driver has taken the decision to drive after taking drugs.

Fortunately, the growing problem of drugged driving has not gone unnoticed, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has recently announced that it aims to make the reduction of drugged driving as much of a national priority as tackling drunk driving. The National Drug Control Strategy now apparently includes a target to reduce drugged driving across the country by 10% by 2015.

If you have been unfortunate enough to be the victim of a car accident that wasn’t your fault, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to guide you through the claim process and help you receive the maximum compensation possible.

This blog was written by our guest blogger, Melissa Hathaway.

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About the author

Melissa Hathaway feels she has the best jobs in the world, full-time writing and looking after her two daughters. In the few moments each day she is not doing one or the other, she loves to take the dogs for a walk and experiment with new types of cupcakes.

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