Drugged Driving vs Drunk Driving: Endangering Tennessee Roadways

Drugged Driving in Memphis TNBy now we all know about the dangers of drinking and driving, how it costs lives and ruins lives every day in Tennessee. You might be surprised to learn that there has actually been a steady decline in drunk driving in the U.S. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, there has been a decreasing trend in alcohol use in night time drivers from 35.9 percent in 1973 to 8.3 percent in 2013-2014. For higher blood alcohol concentration .08 and higher, there was a decrease from 7.5 percent in 1973 to 1.5 percent in 2013-2014, which is an impressive 80 percent reduction in the number of alcohol impaired drivers on the roadways on weekend nights. The NHTSA credits the drop in drunk driving to public education and enforcement campaigns.

Prevalence of drug use by drivers

The study also examined the use of drugs with the potential to impair driving skills, which included certain prescription drugs and illegal drugs. Study participants provided a blood sample, an oral fluid sample and a breath sample, which were tested for the presence of potentially impairing drugs such as cannabinoids, stimulants, sedatives, antidepressants and narcotic analgesics – bearing in mind that the presence of the drug in a person’s system does not imply that they were impaired by the drug. The bottom line is that even as the rate of drunk driving declines, the rates of drugged driving have risen sharply in the past few years. The NHTSA report says, “nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety,” with marijuana at the top of that list.

The challenge of determining how drugs affect driving

As the study mentioned, the presence of a drug in a driver’s bloodstream does not necessarily mean that their driving was impaired by the drug. A person who smoked marijuana days or even a week ago might still have traces of the drug in their blood. While scientists have been able to draw a parallel between alcohol consumption and impairment, the same correlation has not yet been established for psychoactive drugs that have the potential to impair a driver and increase the chances of them causing an accident.

The roadside survey notes that drivers with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit are 5 to 200 times more likely to be in a crash than someone who is sober, yet they were only able to show a slight increase in crash rates for drivers who tested positive for THC in their blood. The NHTSA made it clear that there is a need for more research on drugged driving so that authorities can get a better handle on how the use of a drug such as marijuana affects or impairs a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.

Tennessee’s law prohibiting drugged driving

In Tennessee it is illegal to operate a vehicle while a person is,

  • Under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, controlled substance, controlled substance analogue, drug, substance affecting the central nervous system or combination thereof that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by depriving the driver of the clearness of mind and control of himself which he would otherwise possess;
  • The alcohol concentration in the person’s blood or breath is eight-hundredths of one percent (0.08%) or more; or
  • With a blood alcohol concentration of four-hundredths of one percent (0.04%) and the vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle as defined at § 55-50-102.

If a driver is impaired by a drug and they cause an accident, those who have been injured may be able to take legal action against them. If someone has lost a loved one in an accident with a drugged or drunk driver, they may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain compensation for their losses.

At the law offices of Bailey & Greer, PLLC we can help when you have been injured in a drunk driving accident. Please contact us to schedule a consultation with a dedicated Memphis or Jackson auto accident attorney today. Let us help you when you need help the most.