Drugged driving a growing concern on California’s roads

Concerns about drugged driving are growing in California as lawmakers debate a bill to help fight the problem.

The dangers of drunk driving are well established, which is perhaps why the number of drunk drivers has substantially declined in recent decades. However, in recent years safety analysts have shifted their attention to a new form of impaired driving: drugged driving. According to CNN, the number of drivers who have tested positive for marijuana and other illegal drugs has risen in recent years. The growing number of drugged drivers - along with an increase in car accidents possibly caused by drugged drivers - has led many states, including California, to propose new measure for tackling the problem.

Impaired by drugs

One study last year by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that, based on voluntary roadside tests, the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana and other illicit drugs increased from 12.4 percent in 2007 to 15.1 percent in 2014. That same study found that of the people who were killed in automobile accidents in 2013 and who were tested, 38 percent of them had either legal or illegal drugs in their systems that could have inhibited their driving performance.

While marijuana, which was found in 34.7 percent of the deceased drivers who were tested, was the leading drug implicated in fatal accidents, amphetamines were also found in a large number of drivers (9.7 percent). Amphetamines are a stimulant found in a wide range of legal drugs, including nasal decongestants and ADHD medications.

Proposed legislation

Citing a 22 percent nationwide increase in drugged driving arrests between 2007 and 2014, California lawmakers and safety advocates are pushing for a bill that could make catching drugged drivers easier, according to the Los Angeles Times. The bill, SB 1462, would allow law enforcement officers to conduct an oral swab test on a driver suspected of impaired driving if that driver had already failed a field sobriety test. The swab test could then be used to determine if the driver had marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, or performance-impairing pain medication in his or her system.

While the bill is controversial - with opponents claiming that the reliability of the swab tests has yet to be proven - its supporters say that given that California could soon legalize recreational marijuana, the need for tougher legislation against drugged driving is high. In Colorado, for example, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 32 percent in the first year after marijuana was legalized.

Personal injury law

Impaired driving, whether it is done with alcohol or drugs, puts everybody who uses California's roads and highways at risk. For those who have been injured in an accident that may have been caused by an impaired driver, options are available. A personal injury attorney can help crash victims understand what legal rights they have and may also be able to assist them in pursuing financial compensation.