December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention month, also known as 3D Prevention Month. Why now? Because the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is one of the deadliest on U.S. roadways. There is no better time to remind people to not get behind the wheel if they have used alcohol or drugs.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes. That equates to one person every 50 minutes. Drunk-driving crashes claim more than 10,000 lives per year.
Drugged driving statistics are just as startling. A 2014 NHTSA study found that 20 percent of nighttime weekend drivers tested positive for drugs. A 2016 report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) showed that 44 percent of drivers in fatal car crashes tested positive for drugs.
The sad reality is that every injury or death caused by drunk or drugged driving could have been prevented. For those who have been injured or has lost a loved one because of a car accident, an experienced car accident lawyer can provide invaluable assistance.
What is Drunk or Drugged Driving?
Simply put, drunk or drugged driving is when a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle is impaired by the effects of illegal drugs, prescription medication, marijuana, or over-the-counter medication, or there is enough alcohol in a driver’s system to register an .08 blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) when tested.
It is important to note that a BAC lower than .08 can also affect driving. According to NHTSA reports, in 2018, more than 1800 people were killed in crashes in which the driver had a BAC of .01 to .07.
The Scope of the Impaired Driving Problem in the United States
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the following statistics from 2016 alone:
- Approximately 10,500 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, which was 28 percent of all traffic deaths in the United States that year.
- Of 1,233 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years, 17 percent involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
- More than one million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.
- Drugs other than alcohol, legal and illegal, are involved in approximately 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes.
- It was reported that 13 percent of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system.
- Marijuana users were about 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use.
- Approximately 44 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs. More than half of those drivers tested positive for two or more drugs.
- Even with relaxed marijuana laws in some states, driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal in all states.
How Do Drugs Impair a Driver?
All drugs, whether legal or illegal, act on the brain. Marijuana, methamphetamines, and opioids are common drugs responsible for impaired driving. Some specific effects are as follows:
- Marijuana can slow reaction time, impair the ability to judge time and distance, decrease coordination, and weaken the ability to focus.
- Cocaine or other methamphetamines can cause aggressive and reckless driving.
- Prescription medicines, including opioids, can cause drowsiness and dizziness and impair thinking and judgment.
It is reported that many drivers who cause crashes have both drugs and alcohol or more than one drug in their system, often making it difficult to know which substance had the most effect.
How Does Alcohol Impair a Driver?
Alcohol can reduce coordination, concentration, and the ability to track moving objects, such as other vehicles. It can also impair a driver’s response to an emergency driving situation, such as the need to brake suddenly or swerve to avoid an accident. Finally, alcohol-impaired drivers often have difficulty steering and maintaining lanes and consistent speeds. Alcohol can also cause drowsiness and blurred or double vision.
What Do Authorities Consider Impaired Driving in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, driving under the influence of alcohol is referred to as DWI, or driving while intoxicated. Driving under the influence, or DUI, is the charge for impaired driving caused by drugs, whether legal or illegal. Both DWI and DUI are prosecuted under the same laws and statutes in New Jersey. A charge of DWI in New Jersey is supported by the following:
- A breath test that measures BAC of the air in the lungs. A BAC of .08 or higher is enough for a DWI charge.
- Symptoms of alcohol impairment as seen by police officers, including red and watery eyes, slurred or slowed speech, and poor coordination.
- Poor performance on field sobriety tests. These tests measure a person’s ability to perform so-called divided attention tasks similar to what drivers must do while driving, such as operate a brake pedal or maneuver a steering wheel.
A charge of DUI in New Jersey is supported by the following:
- Symptoms of drug impairment as noted by police officers, including memory loss; elevated or depressed vital signs such as pulse rate, blood pressure, and aspiration rate; dilated pupils; poor balance or coordination; and other signs.
- Poor performance on field sobriety tests.
- Testimony from trained police officers who are Drug Recognition Experts (DREs).
- Results of blood or urine tests that identify drugs in a driver’s system.
How can I Avoid DUI and DWI Accidents?
Accidents resulting from drug or alcohol impairment are 100 percent preventable by following some commonsense rules:
- Be a responsible driver. Those who intend to drink should plan ahead by appointing a designated driver, using a taxi or a ride-sharing service, or getting a ride from a sober driver to and from the destination.
- Be a responsible friend. If a friend is noticeably impaired by drugs or alcohol, someone should take their keys, call a taxi, offer them a place to spend the night, or drive them home if sober.
- Be a responsible host. A host should provide non-alcoholic beverages and food, make sure all guests leave with a sober driver, and call a ride-sharing service if needed.
- Be a responsible citizen. Drivers should always wear a seat belt and be vigilant about other drivers, particularly on holidays and at night. Motorists should contact law enforcement if drunk or drugged driving is seen or suspected while on the road.
What Should Drivers Do After an Accident with an Impaired Driver?
Despite a person’s vigilance and responsible behavior, accidents can happen. A driver who is involved in a vehicle accident with someone who may be impaired by alcohol or drugs should, if able, do the following:
- Call 911 to report the accident.
- Seek immediate medical attention. Drivers and passengers should get examined by on-scene paramedics or later by other medical providers, whether or not an injury is visible or noticeable. Sometimes people experience shock following an accident and may not realize they are injured. It is always best to seek medical attention immediately or soon after an accident.
- Drivers should not admit guilt or fault in the accident, but should report the facts to the police, especially any signs of impairment or other suspicious behavior by the other driver.
- Cooperate with any testing or questions a responding officer requests.
- Take pictures or videos of the scene, including vehicles involved and the physical location of the accident.
- Document in writing or by photo any signs of impairment by the at-fault driver or passengers.
- Get the names and contact information of all drivers involved in the accident, along with their insurance information.
- Get the names and contact information of witnesses and bystanders; document what they say about the accident.
- Hire a lawyer as soon as possible after the accident. A person who is injured or a loved one who is killed has the right to compensation for damages in accidents caused by impaired drivers.
How can a Car Accident Lawyer Help with an Impaired Driving Claim?
A victim of an accident with an impaired driver, or their loved ones if the victim was fatally injured, should hire a car accident lawyer to assist with the following:
- Thoroughly investigate and collect evidence. An experienced lawyer knows what type of evidence and information is needed in an impaired driver claim as well as the legal rules regarding gathering and preservation of evidence.
- Protect legal rights. A lawyer can inform the victim of all their legal rights and ensure statutes of limitation and legal processes are followed.
- Gather expert and witness testimony. The right expert and witnesses, especially in accident reconstruction and health testimony, can strengthen a claim.
- Maximize insurance. Car accident lawyers understand the intricacies of insurance coverage and insurers’ tactics to minimize payouts or reduce coverage.
- Determine all the liable parties. It is not always the impaired driver who is at fault. For example, a vehicle owner or an employer might also be liable in a claim.
- Negotiate a settlement. Lawyers understand how to most effectively work and negotiate with insurers to maximize settlements.
- Prepare and file a lawsuit. When an out-of-court settlement cannot be reached, a lawyer can help victims get the compensation they deserve in a court trial.
Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Assist Victims of Accidents Involving Drunk or Drugged Drivers
If you are injured or a loved one is killed in an accident by a known or suspected impaired driver, the Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law are available to provide assistance. We advocate for victims of accidents involving drunk or drugged drivers. Our skilled legal team will work closely with you to protect your rights and secure the compensation you deserve. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.