Posted by Salvatore J, Zambri, founding member and partner.
NHTSA studies results indicate that impaired driving enforcement now faces new
challenges. Although the statistics reveal that drunk driving incidence
has decreased, as more states legalize marijuana use, more drivers involved
in crashes are testing positive for THC. Since 2007, the number of drivers
testing positive for alcohol has decreased by nearly one-third. However,
the same study showed a drastic increase in the number of drivers using
marijuana or illegal drugs. The 2014 study showed nearly one in four drivers
tested positive for drugs.
NHTSA Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers is a voluntary and anonymous survey that has been conducted five times
over the past forty years. The most recent testing indicated a 30% decrease
in alcohol prevalence among drivers since 2007 and an 80% decrease since
the first survey in 1973. But, the surveys also revealed a large increase
of drivers with drugs in their system in 2014, particularly during weekends.
According to the NHTSA summary, "Changes in State policy on marijuana
use, including medical and recreational use, may have contributed to an
increase in marijuana use by drivers. However, the survey does not permit
a state-by-state comparison. The change in use may reflect the emergence
of a new trend in the country that warrants monitoring."
The second and more difficult-to-analyze study by the NHTSA attempted to
determine whether marijuana use by drivers correlated to an increase in
the risk of accidents. This survey found that marijuana users are more
likely to be involved in accidents. However, the group with the highest
incidence of marijuana use was also the group that is already considered
higher risk, young men, leading research experts and law enforcement agencies
unable to draw definitive conclusions.
The real challenges are in determining whether marijuana or other drug
use results in impaired driving. Unlike alcohol use, which is known to
be predictable and has a strong correlation between alcohol concentration
and crash risk, several factors complicate the ability to make predictions
for drug use:
- "The large number of different drugs that would need to be tested;
- Poor correlation between the effects on psychomotor, behavioral, and/or
executive functions and blood or plasma drug concentrations;
- Sensitivity and tolerance;
- Individual differences in absorption, distribution, action, and metabolism;
- Acute versus chronic administration."
The NHTSA concludes that it is not possible currently to equate specific
drug concentration levels to impaired driving. The associate administrator
for research and program development for the NHTSA said, "Drivers
should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana
impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness. These findings highlight
the importance of research to better understand how marijuana use affects
drivers so states and communities can craft the best safety policies."
About the author:
Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial
Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan
Washington, D.C. The association recently named him "Trial Lawyer
of the Year".
Super Lawyers recently named him among the "Top Ten" lawyers in the Metro
Area (out of more than 80,000 attorneys). He has been rated by
Washingtonian magazine as a "Big Gun" and among the "top 100″ lawyers
in the entire metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as "one
of Washington's best-most honest and effective lawyers" who specializes
in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises
liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims.
He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies,
the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile
owners. His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever
in a personal injury case involving WMATA. Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged
as one of "The Best Lawyers in America" by
Best Lawyers (2014 edition) and has been repeatedly named a "Super Lawyer" by
Super Lawyer magazine (2014) - national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.