The Danger Of “Drugged Driving”
“Drugged driving” incidents have been increasing in the last few years. This increase has occurred throughout the Chicago area, including Will County.
There are many traffic safety hazards presented when a motorist drives while impaired by drugs. Such drug impairment can impact the motorist’s ability to drive in a lawful and safe manner. If a driver has taken multiple illicit drugs prior to driving – and/or consumed alcohol along with the drug use – the effect of the impairment can be significantly increased.
The types of illicit drugs that are commonly taken by drug-impaired drivers varies significantly. However, among the most common drugs are marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and meth. However, many other drugs can be taken, including various hallucinogenic drugs. As well, some of the most serious fatal accidents in the Chicago area have occurred after a driver has been “huffing.”
Various aspects of driving while impaired on drugs is further discussed on the “Vehicle Accidents Involving Drivers Under The Influence Of Drugs” page. Additionally, DUI criteria for marijuana use and other drugs is explained in the “Illinois 2020 DUI Fact Book.”
Legalized Recreational Marijuana In Illinois
In Illinois recreational marijuana usage will become legal, beginning in January 2020. Many people are wondering what impact this might have on traffic safety. Three of the main questions are:
- Will this marijuana legalization result in more people driving while high?
- What effect does marijuana use have on someone who subsequently drives a vehicle?
- What differences in driver impairment does marijuana have if it is vaped or eaten (i.e. consumed as an “edible”) vs. smoked?
Impact Of Cannabis Usage on Driving
Like the effect other illicit drug usage has on drivers, cannabis usage and its impact on driving can be complex. The subject is discussed on the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) page titled “Does marijuana use affect driving?”
Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.7–9
Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in vehicle crashes, including fatal ones.10 Two large European studies found that drivers with THC in their blood were roughly twice as likely to be culpable for a fatal crash than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol.11,12 However, the role played by marijuana in crashes is often unclear because it can be detected in body fluids for days or even weeks after intoxication and because people frequently combine it with alcohol. Those involved in vehicle crashes with THC in their blood, particularly higher levels, are three to seven times more likely to be responsible for the incident than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol. The risk associated with marijuana in combination with alcohol appears to be greater than that for either drug by itself.8
Additional commentary concerning marijuana use and its effect on driving is seen in the NHTSA report of July 2017 titled “Marijuana-Impaired Driving.” One of the main topics discussed is how to determine whether a driver has been impaired by marijuana usage, and how this cannabis usage may be tested and definitively proven as the cause of a driver’s impairment.
The subject of whether a driver is impaired by marijuana use is complex. When a driver is impaired by alcohol consumption, there are standardized tests to determine if the driver is drunk. However, with marijuana usage, there is no standardized test that currently is available to police to test for driver impairment. Thus, “drugged driving” because of cannabis (as well as other illicit drugs) use can be difficult to assess.
The Chicago Tribune article of October 25, 2019, titled “Cops using roadside tests for weed, but lack set measure of impairment” discusses this subject, and some of the dynamics of how marijuana is processed in the body. An excerpt from this article:
The problem is, there is no scientific standard for establishing impairment based on the amount of THC — the main component of pot that gets users high — in the body. The drug is metabolized very quickly, but remains in the body for a long time, well after the high wears off. That means there may be a long legal fight ahead for any attempt to create a parallel policing system for pot as there is for alcohol.
Illinois law sets the definition of driving impairment from marijuana at 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood, or 10 ng/ml of other bodily fluids such as saliva or urine. The new roadside tests being tested by Carol Stream use saliva.
But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cautions that there is no scientifically established measurement of bodily fluids to establish impairment, so such laws are “not meaningful.”
This Tribune article also highlights studies and statistics regarding the prevalence of marijuana use in “drugged driving” car crashes.
What To Do If Injured In An Accident
As previously mentioned, accidents caused by “drugged drivers” tend to be serious in nature. Due to the impairment – which can vary significantly depending on many factors – the driver’s response to the traffic situation can be substantially in error. If this is the case, a violent collision with another vehicle or a fixed object can occur. Such a violent collision can cause serious injuries to all vehicle occupants involved. As seen in various Chicago-area vehicle accidents, it is common for a drug-impaired driver crash to result in one or more fatalities.
As with any accident injury, an injured person should take immediate action following an accident. Various steps to protect one’s health are of critical importance. Having a thorough, documented medical exam is also beneficial from a legal perspective. There are also other steps that should be taken from a legal perspective in order to preserve the ability to get the maximum amount of compensation for one’s injuries.
A qualified personal injury attorney should be able to indicate the potential amount of injury compensation. The amount of accident injury compensation varies depending upon the specific characteristics of the accident and the associated injuries. The nature of the injuries, including whether the injuries have caused a temporary or permanent impairment, is a primary factor. Impairments can take many different forms.
People who have been injured in accidents will typically have a great need for injury compensation. Depending upon the type and severity of injuries – and other factors such as insurance – medical bills can be high if not very much so. As well, there can be other financial challenges presented, such as the inability to work during the recovery period. If serious injuries have caused permanent impairments, there may be an inability for the injured person to return to the same job.
Given these medical costs , other hardships, and financial issues – compensation sought in these injury lawsuits can potentially include many different types. Compensation types can include (but are not limited to) those for:
- Medical bills (past, current and future)
- Rehabilitation, including physical and occupational rehabilitation
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of function
- Lost wages
- Loss of consortium
- Other economic damages
The Elman Law Group, an Illinois personal injury law firm, can provide an overview as to what types of compensation – as well as what amounts – may be reasonably expected given the characteristics of the accident and the associated injuries.
If you were injured in an accident, call Tony Elman, Lead Trial Attorney at the Elman Law Group, at (773) 392-8182 to discuss the accident and see what legal actions – including the filing of a lawsuit – may be appropriate. This discussion is provided free of charge and is confidential in nature.
Elman Law Group, LLC has been handling Illinois personal injury cases for 25+ years, and during this time has handled over 10,000 personal injury cases. Through this extensive experience, the Elman Law Group has built a reputation for its court trial performance. As seen in many of its cases, this successful trial experience may (substantially) increase potential accident injury compensation.
Elman Law Group, LLC handles cases on a “contingency” basis…clients are not charged legal fees unless and until they get money.