The most recent data available points to a startling fact: Drugged drivers are now more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident than drunk drivers.
For a state like Missouri that has been hit so hard by the opioid crisis, news like this is important. However, there are also a lot of complicated details in the news that should not be overlooked.
Study Shows Drugged Drivers More Dangerous Than Drunk Drivers
Using numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2015 edition of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the Governors Highway Safety Association found a surprising stat: Drugs were reported in 43% of the fatal car accidents in the U.S. This number was higher than the 37% of fatal accidents that involved a drunk driver.
Many are using these numbers—and the fact that they are the first time that drugged drivers have eclipsed drunk drivers in fatal crashes—to advocate for drug reform. However, there are reasons to be skeptical.
Still a Lot of Uncertainty in the Numbers
One reason to be skeptical about the report is how much room there is for error.
The report focuses exclusively on fatal accidents. While this choice was made because more fatally-injured drivers are tested for drugs than injured drivers, the result confined the study to only a tiny fraction of car crashes.
Even those numbers that did find drugs in a driver’s system after a fatal wreck, though, were too vague to produce very much information. In the report, 57% of fatally-injured drivers were tested for drugs. Of those drivers, 34.3% had a drug recognized by the reporting system. Of those, more than a third had marijuana in their system. However, more than half had an unidentified drug, leaving more questions than answers.
Additionally, the study overlooks an important difference between drugs and alcohol: Alcohol impairs a driver throughout its time in his or her bloodstream. Drugs, on the other hand, can be detectable for days or even months afterwards—far past the time it could impair someone’s ability to drive. The numbers of people who had drugs “in their system” at the time of a fatal car accident, therefore, are likely to be vastly over reported.
Potential Bias in the Report
An interesting part of the report is who was behind it. The Governors Highway Safety Association—a group comprised of state highway offices in the U.S.—was one of the organizations that published the report.
However, funding for the report was provided by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR), a nonprofit group that advocates for responsible drinking. While this sounds legitimate, FAAR’s membership is comprised of alcohol companies including Jagermeister, Bacardi, and the makers of Jim Beam.
While it is unclear if bias infiltrated the findings in the report, the members of FAAR definitely had a motivation for divulging them: Shifting blame for fatal car accidents from alcohol to drugs would help their image.
St. Joseph Car Accident Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
Drugs are becoming more and more of a problem on the roadways. However, there are several reasons to be skeptical about this new batch of statistics. Only when we get accurate numbers about the problem can a good solution be made.
Until then, the personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph will represent those who have been hurt in a car accident by drunk or drugged drivers. Contact us online or call our Missouri law office at (816) 875-9373.