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Report recommends action against drugged driving

While drunk driving accidents have decreased, the percentage of drivers using drugs has grown. This growth has prompted the Governors Highway Safety Administration to issue a report calling for action to attack drugged driving.

The GHSA is a nonprofit association that advocates on behalf of state highway offices. The report was issued in September in conjunction with the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.

A National Highway Transportation Safety Administration survey found that 22 percent of drivers tested positive for some drug or medication. The percentage of fatally-injured drivers with drugs in their systems is 40 percent -- which is nearly the same of those who tested positive for alcohol who were involved in these crashes.

The use of any illegal, prescription or over-the-counter drug can impair the ability to safely drive a vehicle. This danger is compounded when drugs are ingested with alcohol. However, this trend is especially alarming and is likely to grow because the medical or recreational use of marijuana is allowed in 27 states and Washington, DC. The amount of prescription painkillers also multiplied by four in this country in the last 26 years.

The GSA has asked the NHTSA to issue guidance on best practices to avoid driving while impaired by marijuana. It also recommended that the states examine and update their drug-impaired driving laws, assess current data on this problem, provide training to law enforcement and judicial officials and test all fatally-injured drivers for the presence of drugs.

The GSA also seeks other the federal government actions. These include adoption of a Government Accounting Office recommendation to conduct a drugged-driving education program. It also seeks more resources for prosecutors and judges, standardized roadside testing policies and devices, data collection guidelines and continued research on the effectiveness of laws and education programs. The level of impairment produced by different concentrations of drugs should also be studied.

Connecticut currently possesses no specific drug-impaired driving laws. Marijuana is decriminalized and may also be used for medical purposes.

As this problem mounts, motorist and pedestrians in Connecticut face the risk of drug-impaired driver in addition to the dangers of a drunk driving accident. Victims of these accidents face serious injuries, medical expenses and other health and financial challenges. Prompt legal assistance should be sought to help assure that compensation may be sought for these losses.

Source: Governors Highway Safety Administration, "New report urges national, state action on drugged driving," Sept. 30, 2015

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