Drugged driving is a growing threat to highway safety in West Virginia

Fatal automobile crashes resulting from a driver’s impairment from using marijuana have tripled in the United States over the past decade.

The Herald-Dispatch newspaper recently reported that a small group of citizens gathered in Huntington, on the corner of 8th Street and 5th Avenue, to advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana. While support for the liberalization of laws pertaining to marijuana is growing across American, so are fatal automobile crashes involving marijuana use. Health Day Magazine reports that a Columbia University study shows that fatal car accidents involving marijuana use increased by 300 percent during the previous decade. The report was based on crash statistics and toxicology tests from West Virginia and five other states.

Interestingly, the increase in marijuana use is occurring across all age groups and both sexes. Statistics suggest that about 11 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes would test as under the influence of marijuana. While marijuana use alone can lead to an automobile crash, if a driver is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, the odds of a crash increase greatly. Marijuana is, of course, only one of the drugs that is fueling an increase in the number of drugged driving accidents. Other drugs often implicated in drugged driving accidents include meth, cocaine and heroin.

The precise effect of a drug depends on the type of drug one has used. According to a 2009 article published in the American Journal on Addictions, marijuana causes impairment in every performance area that can reasonably be connected to the safe driving of a vehicle. Specifically, marijuana impairs attentiveness, visual attention and the perception of time and speed. Such impairment can result in a car crash inflicting injuries on innocent motorists. Meth and cocaine are two other drugs which often impair drivers. The Drug Enforcement Administration observes that cocaine and meth cause drivers to engage in speeding and the recklessly changing of lanes without signaling. Both behaviors put innocent citizens at risk of an automobile crash.

A growing problem

The National Conference of State Legislatures concludes that an increasing number of motor vehicle accidents are caused by drug impairment. According to the 2012 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 10.3 million people self-reported themselves as having driven under the influence of illicit drugs during the year prior to the survey.

West Virginia Illustrated reports that, according to the West Virginia State Police, more people are engaging in drugged driving on West Virginia's highways than ever before. Indeed, some troopers report that they are seeing more instances of drugged driving than driving while under the influence of alcohol. Apart from marijuana, the drugs of choice for West Virginia's impaired drivers appear to be meth, oxycontin and heroin.

Keeping friends safe

If you suspect that a friend has taken any substance that is likely to impair his or her cognitive functions, you should keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Never let a friend drive while impaired.
  • Be firm in your insistence not to allow a friend to drive impaired.
  • Take away or hide an impaired friend's keys.
  • Either take the impaired friend home or urge the friend to take public transportation home.
  • Never encourage anyone to use substances that could impair their cognitive ability.

Bringing suit for injuries

Drugged driving presents a significant risk of causing injury or death to innocent motorists. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a drugged driver, you are advised to contact a West Virginia attorney who is experienced in handling motor vehicle accident cases. Do not allow yourself to be an uncompensated victim of another's recklessness behavior in driving while high.

Keywords: car accident, drugged driving, injury, West Virginia