When people think of impaired driving, they often think only about alcohol, but drugged driving also plays a role in a significant percentage of car accidents. Drugged driving is the result of the use of psychoactive drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines and benzodiazepines, which make it both dangerous and illegal to operate a vehicle.

The driver, passengers and others on the road are at risk when a driver chooses to operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs. When a driver uses drugs, the driver’s mental and physical faculties are impaired, compromising balance and coordination, motor skills, attention, reaction time and judgment, which can lead to a car accident.

While the exact impact of drugged driving on car accidents and their resulting injuries is difficult to calculate, certain studies and surveys suggest that it is significant. A 2007 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration National Roadside Survey, for example, found that during weekend night hours, about 16 percent of drivers tested positive for illegal or medicinal drugs, and more than 11 percent tested positive for illicit drugs.

Additionally, a 2009 NHTSA study found that about 18 percent of drivers who suffered fatal injuries in accidents also tested positive for at least one illegal drug. Other studies suggest that between 4 and 14 percent of drivers who suffer injuries or are killed in accidents are under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, at the time of the incident.

If an individual has been injured in a car accident for which an impaired driver is responsible, the injured person may be entitled to seek compensation for associated medical costs. Because drugged driving may carry criminal charges, an attorney might use this as evidence of the driver’s liability for damages.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse , “DrugFacts: Drugged Driving“, January 05, 2015