Drugged driving, or drug-impaired driving, is becoming an increasingly critical issue for both states and state highway safety offices. In the most recently available data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) reported that “drugs were present in 43% of the fatally-injured drivers with a known test result, more frequently than alcohol was present.” For the first time, statistics reveal that drug use was more prevalent in fatally-injured drivers than alcohol. Ever-growing issues like the opioid epidemic and the legalization of recreational marijuana in multiple states only add to the deadly trends of drugged driving.
Many people don’t understand the effects of various drugs, their impact on driving ability, and the increased risk of a crash; something that is otherwise well-documented for alcohol. As stated in the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report, “in a recent survey, drivers believed that driving after drinking is a greater problem than driving after using marijuana (64% vs. 29%) and that driving after drinking is more common and increases crash risk more than driving after using marijuana (56% vs. 34% and 98% vs. 78%).” People can refer to an abundance of data to help determine the risk of driving after drinking, but the data for drugged driving remains very limited. This is partially due to the fact that the concentration level of drugs in the body can vary greatly depending on the person and type of drug, leaving people with only broad, qualitative estimates for determining the risk of drugged driving.
The correlation between drugs, and their impairment and lasting effects can vary among individuals and are not easily measured. Some drugs remain in the body for days after use, resulting in low levels of concentration without impairing effects. “THC level in blood (or oral fluid) does not appear to be an accurate and reliable predictor of impairment from THC,” according to the NHTSA Marijuana-Impaired Driving – A Report to Congress. Unlike the 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold for alcohol, establishing a link between impairment and drug concentrations is almost considered infeasible, according to the Society of Forensic Toxicologists.
Researchers have had decades to study alcohol impairment and have developed significant methods, such as the breathalyzer, to aid in detecting usage. With marijuana laws varying from state to state, it’s increasingly difficult to formulate a standard drug impaired testing procedure. Law enforcement officers have a variety of procedures they can use to verify whether someone is driving under the influence of alcohol, but the detection of impairment of marijuana and other drugs aren’t as easily determined.
Currently, there are three types of state laws regarding driving under the influence of drugs.
1) The law enforcement officer must observe a behavior that exhibits signs of impairment.
2) The impairment must be linked to a drug.
As driving after drinking is decreasing, drugged driving is increasing, according to trends stated in the 2017 GHSA report. Driving after drinking is a well-known danger to our safety on the road and remains socially unacceptable. Drugged driving, on the other hand, does not have the same social stigmas. Many drivers do not understand how drugs can increase crash risk.
In the Workplace
All employers must be concerned with the safety of their employees while on the job, as well as the community they work in. When an employee is involved in an accident while driving on the job, then post-accident testing is administered according to their company policy and DOT regulations. Post-accident testing is used to determine whether the employee involved in the accident was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. DISA Global Solutions provides employers with post-accident services both during and after business hours. If an accident occurs during business hours, the driver calls in their supervisor who then proceeds with company policy procedures, in addition to DOT regulations. If the accident occurs after hours, a DISA client services representative will walk the driver through the appropriate policies and assist in locating the nearest after-hours clinic for testing.
For more than 30 years, DISA has been a provider of workplace safety and compliance services. DISA helps companies make more informed staffing decisions by offering a broad array of industry-leading methodologies to make employee screening faster and more accurate. For more information about DISA call 1-800-752-6432 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.