Are drugs or even medications causing motor vehicle accidents?

Motor vehicle crash fatalities across the country indicate a potentially disturbing new trend: Among the fatal crash victims who were tested in 2013, 38 percent had detectable levels of drugs that could potentially impair driving ability. Notably, that percentage is nearly equal to the number that tested positive for alcohol in the same year, based on data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

What kind of substances might impair the duty of care that each driver owes to others traveling New Jersey’s roads and highways? Despite changing attitudes, marijuana might present a potential danger to driving. In fact, marijuana was the most common drug detected in the NHTSA's fatal crash data from 2007 through 2013, at 34.7 percent.

Yet even seemingly innocuous substances might interfere with a driver’s senses. Amphetamines, for example, are a class of stimulants that also includes common medications for nasal decongestants or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In the crash data, 9.7 percent of the victims had detectable levels of amphetamines in their systems.

Our personal injury lawyers believe that a driver who failed to observe traffic conditions or rules should be held accountable for any resulting accidents and/or injuries that he or she causes. If that fault was attributable to drugged driving, a jury in a personal injury lawsuit should consider that evidence in their deliberations. A negligent driver may attempt to downplay his or her level of impairment, especially if the substance was legal, as in the case of a prescription drug. However, there are studies that indicate that crash risk increases with certain drugs, even ones as commonplace as nasal decongestants or other amphetamines.