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Drug use increasingly evident among drivers who die in crashes

The laws in Kansas against drunk driving have been clear for years, but drug-impaired driving is more difficult to detect than alcohol. Research assembled by the National Transportation Safety Board has revealed a substantial increase in drug use among drivers who died in crashes. In 2006, toxicology testing of deceased drivers measured the presence of drugs, such as prescription drugs, marijuana or opiates, in 30 percent of victims. By 2015, the number of deceased drivers testing positive for drugs had gone up to 46 percent.

When the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration conducted random roadside tests, the agency identified evidence of drug use among 22 percent of drivers. Authorities blame the growing problem of drug-impaired driving on widespread prescription drug abuse and the increasing availability of legal marijuana nationwide. Law enforcement currently has limited means of easily measuring intoxicants other than alcohol. The safety board wants the NHTSA to develop standards for a roadside oral fluid test that law enforcement agencies can use to check for drug use. The safety advocates want better training for police officers so that they can notice the signs of drug impairment during traffic stops.

Traffic enforcement personnel and safety researchers have also noted an increase in people mixing drugs with alcohol. Police possess standardized equipment for measuring alcohol use, but officers must use the equipment correctly to obtain an accurate reading. A person charged with drunk driving might want a defense attorney who could evaluate the actions of police officers during an arrest. Problems with equipment or procedures could provide opportunities to undermine a DUI charge. The efforts of an attorney to negotiate a reduction of charges could protect a defendant from a criminal record and limit penalties. Legal guidance might also help a person regain driving privileges in a timely manner.

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