More numbers of Americans are now driving under the influence of drugs. While driving under the influence of alcohol continues to constitute the highest percentage of impaired drivers every year, there are increasing numbers of motorists out there, driving under the influence of marijuana and prescription painkillers.
New figures released by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health seems to indicate that between 99 and 2000, close to 25% of drivers who were involved in fatal accidents, were on drugs at the time of the accident. The data came from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and involved more than 23,500 drivers. Close to 40% of drivers had alcohol in their systems at the time.
The data is not by any means exhaustive, and only included fatal accidents in California, Illinois, Hawaii, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and West Virginia. It's also hard to pinpoint the exact role of marijuana in these accidents, because marijuana can remain in a person’s system for up to one week after use.
The California Department Of Motor Vehicles also says that most drivers on drugs at the time of a fatal or injurious accident, were not convicted of DUI in the accident.
That's not so surprising to understand. It is much easier to test if a person has been driving under the influence of alcohol, than it is to test if a person is driving under the influence of drugs. As mentioned earlier, marijuana can stay in a person’s system for several days after use, making it hard to determine whether the person was stoned several days prior, or whether he used marijuana just before he began driving.
This and other factors make it more difficult for law enforcement to prosecute and convict a person of driving under the influence of drugs.