The new reality is that impaired driving does not only involve just alcohol. More and more, it’s been shown that drugs, prescription or illicit, have the ability to affect a person’s ability to drive.
On January 13, 2016, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) a federal agency charged with investigating serious transportation accidents released their latest report. Chairman Christopher Hart announced the “2016 Most Wanted Safety Improvements,” stating with more than 90 percent of transportation related deaths occur each year on our roadways, they will start there with their change recommendations. A comprehensive set of transportation safety goals that the NTSB will advocate will be coming this year. One priority of the NTSB is to “end substance abuse in transportation all together.” While it is not a policymaking body, the recommendations carry significant weight with members of US Congress, state legislators and law enforcement personnel.
Drivers and other transportation operators need to have the information to make informed decisions. While many recognize the impairment potential of illicit drugs, they may not appreciate the potentially impairing effects of prescribed or over-the-counter medications, especially in combinations.
While significant progress has already been achieved in reducing drunken driving deaths in the US since the 1980s, the number of fatalities resulting from drunk driving accidents has hovered around 10,000 over the last three years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the cost of deaths and injuries is estimated to be at $37 billion annually. These numbers are in part if the result in an increase in miles traveled by a growing American population, an improved economy, and lower gas prices. Nevertheless, the human and economic toll is substantial and should be addressed.
One recommendation from the NTSB’s list of what can be done, is to state new definitions of drunk driving, including the powerful recommendation that the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level be lowered to 0.05. Currently the federally mandated BAC level is 0.08. The NTSB is also urging vehicle manufacturers to make their vehicles safer by making vehicles that cannot be operated by an impaired driver. There is currently funding to research this development to immobilize vehicles and to track consumption by drivers with previous drunk driving offenses.
For more on ways the NTSB is looking to stop impaired driving, click here.
The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem.