The legalization or decriminalization of marijuana as well as the opioid epidemic are now starting to reflect in traffic safety data. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the number of drivers tested positive in traffic fatalities has increased to 44 percent in 2016 (the most recent year of data). This is up from 28 percent in 2006. This information on drugged driving is based on a recent report, “Drug-Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States.”
The breakdown of drug related fatalities was:
- 38 percent tested positive for marijuana
- 16 percent tested positive for opioids
- 4 percent tested positive for both
Alcohol use down slightly
The report also found that there was a slight decrease in alcohol-related fatalities from 41 percent in 2006 to 38 percent in 2016. This is partially attributed to an increased awareness of DUI charges and the serious consequences for those charged.
Drugs pose a unique challenges
While testing for blood alcohol content level is a fairly straightforward process with a variety of different testing options, drug testing pose a different challenges that will make it hard to enforce the laws:
- Drivers may still have drugs in their system, but not be impaired
- Each drug requires its own test, as opposed to the singular property of alcoholic drinks
- Different drugs have different impairment effects on different people
- There is no nationally accepted testing method so there is no base line for impairment results
A growing issue
The prevailing winds on marijuana and opioid use points to an increase. While Indiana shows few signs of legalizing marijuana, the national trend is that more states are moving towards legalization. Illegal opioid use and opioid abuse, on the other hand, continue to be huge issue. This will likely impact state and federal laws in the years to come.