One out of every three young adults has recently ridden in a vehicle with a driver who was impaired by drugs. That’s according to a recent analysis by researchers at Colorado State University, with findings published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Furthermore, the study shows that for the first time, youth are more likely to be in a vehicle with a driver who is under the influence of marijuana as opposed to being drunk.
As our drunk driving injury attorneys in Fort Lauderdale know, there could be a lot of different reasons for this. One is that this is one of the first studies to ask teens and young adults about the kind of substance used by an impaired driver, rather than just asking whether they were impaired at all. That said, there is good reason to speculate crashes involving cannabis-impaired drivers and those impaired by other drugs has risen, relative to the number of drunk driving accidents.
The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed nearly 21 million people 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol in the past year, while nearly 12 million drove under the influence of illicit drugs. Marijuana is the most found drug in the blood of drivers found in crashes – just after alcohol. Recent research seems to indicate marijuana may not be even more prevalent than alcohol in drivers involved in fatal crashes; However, we must be careful with that data because while the drug is present in the system’s of an increasing number of drivers, that doesn’t automatically mean it was a causal factor.
And herein lies one of the challenges for injury attorneys in Florida marijuana-impaired driving cases. We know that marijuana intoxication causes a person to be a poorer driver. It causes slower reaction time and coordination. It can cause dizziness or drowsiness and an altered level of attention to the road. All of this can contribute to a crash. The problem, however, is that impairment due to marijuana is not as easily identified as that involving alcohol. That’s because marijuana stays in the system much longer than alcohol, meaning it can still be in the body but not be a clear indicator of impairment, while chemical tests showing high traces of alcohol almost certainly mean impairment. That makes it tougher for police to prove their cases also.
The good news for you is that the proof burden in civil injury lawsuits is much lower than for criminal cases. Further, we don’t necessarily need to prove the other driver was high in order to show he or she was negligent in breaching the duty of care to be a reasonably safe driver. While evidence of marijuana use can be presented as evidence that one was negligent, it’s not necessarily enough in and of itself to prove that a driver was negligent and liable to pay your damages.
In the Colorado study, researchers asked whether young adults (just graduated from high school) had in the last year ridden in a vehicle with someone who had been drinking alcohol? The question was repeated for several different drugs. When asked about marijuana, nearly 25 percent responded in the affirmative, compared to 20 percent of those who agreed they had ridden with an alcohol-impaired driver. Some individuals indicated they had ridden with more than one driver or drivers impaired under more than one substance.
A person’s decision to knowingly get into a vehicle with someone who is impaired could be used as evidence of comparative negligence in your injury lawsuit, but it will not bar your claim.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
CSU study: One-third of young adults have ridden with an impaired driver, March 21, 2018, By Jeff Dodge, Colorado State University
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Negligent Auto Repair Can Be Grounds for Car Accident Lawsuit, March 20, 2018, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog