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Drugged driving now ranks as a top cause of traffic deaths in Tennessee

Drivers under the influence of drugs, which may be illicit or prescribed, are contributing to a growing number of fatal accidents in Tennessee.

While drunk driving arrests and accidents have fallen over the past few decades, drugged driving has become a growing concern in Memphis and other areas. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2014, over 10 million people in the U.S. reported that they had driven under the influence of illicit drugs within the past year. With the use of over-the-counter and prescription narcotics factored in, drugged driving is likely even more common.

This problem has taken a significant toll here in Tennessee. Accidents involving drugged drivers are on the rise, and they now represent one of the top causes of traffic deaths in the state, according to official data.

A deadly trend

From 2010 to 2015, fatal crashes involving drug-impaired drivers rose 89 percent in Tennessee, as The Tennessean reports. In 2015, these fatalities outstripped those involving drunk drivers or distracted drivers. Drunk driving was a factor in 136 deaths, distracted driving played a role in 51 deaths and drug-impaired driving was tied to 174 deaths. The rise in drugged driving fatalities may also have contributed to a statewide increase in traffic deaths.

This apparent increase in fatal accidents involving drugged driving may reflect the fact that law enforcement authorities are becoming more adept at identifying intoxication from drugs. However, local authorities also attribute the trend to the increasing prevalence of prescription drug abuse. In addition, the availability of legal marijuana in more states might be a contributing factor.

Drugged driving risks

Illicit or prescription drug use can increase a person's likelihood of causing a serious car accident in various ways. Depending on the substance, a person may experience the following impairments while under the influence of drugs:

  • Reduced coordination and difficulty controlling a vehicle
  • Impaired judgment or risk-taking tendencies
  • Difficulty maintaining focus on driving
  • Slow response times and difficulty processing information
  • Drowsiness, dizziness and other adverse physical effects

Unfortunately, some people may not realize that they are endangering others by driving after taking prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines. Other motorists may underestimate the impairing effects of certain drugs.

Enforcement issues

Problematically, detecting and prosecuting drugged driving can be difficult. While a test can prove that a drug was present in a driver's system, it cannot necessarily show that the driver was impaired from using the drug. Additionally, even though many authorities in Tennessee undergo training on detecting drug-impaired drivers, some cases of drugged driving may still go uncaught.

For the victims of unnecessary accidents involving drug use, proving another driver was under the influence and responsible for the incident may be challenging. This makes consulting with an attorney advisable for anyone who has suffered injuries in an accident and is preparing to seek compensation. The lawyers of Rosenblum & Reisman in Memphis, Tennessee, have handled numerous cases where driving while on drugs has caused catastrophic injuries and death. Anyone who has been involved in this type of accident or knows someone who has, is urged to contact an attorney as soon as possible.