Brad Pistotnik Law
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How Do Drugs & Alcohol Impact Driving Ability?

How Do Drugs & Alcohol Impact Driving Ability?

How do drugs and alcohol impact driving ability? How does impaired driving increase the risk of a motor vehicle accident? Drugs and alcohol slow reaction times, impair judgment and reduce coordination. At any level of impairment, this increases the risk of causing a motor vehicle accident. Often, these types of accidents result in a fatality.

Alcohol Impairment and Accidents

In the United States, accidents, including motor vehicle accidents, are the 3rd leading cause of death. In 2017, 40,231 people died in motor vehicle collisions. Of these, approximately 25% involved a drunk driver. That trend continued into 2018 when 10,511 individuals died in drunk driving accidents. From 2009 to 2018, more than 10,000 people died each year in accidents involving a drunk driver.

Alcohol slows reaction time, dulls vision, impairs tracking ability, and reduces concentration. It also makes it harder for drivers to comprehend and interpret events on the road and reduces eye/hand/foot coordination. The level of impairment varies from person to person. Factors ranging from age and weight to genetic disposition and the type of alcohol all play a role in determining how significant the impairment is, and how long it lasts.

In the United States, the legal BAC limit for driving is .08. However, many drivers can become impaired at .05%. In fact, between .05% and .079%, the risk of an accident increases between seven to 21 times that of a non-impaired driver. Thus, a driver who drives under the legal limit may still suffer significant impairment that can result in a motor vehicle accident.

Marijuana Impairment and Accidents

The growing prevalence of marijuana usage in the United States is of considerable concern. More than 60 studies have determined that marijuana consumption impairs every skill required to operate a motor vehicle safely. As with alcohol, the consumption of cannabis impairs coordination, reasoning, and reflexes. In California, Colorado, and Washington, the legalization of cannabis products resulted in a sharp increase in the number of impaired driving accidents. In states that legalized marijuana for recreational use, accident rates rose by about 6%, indicating a direct link between legalization and accident rates.

The effects of marijuana are similar to those of alcohol. It slows reaction time, delays decisions, distorts perception, and can slow problem-solving skills. If combined with alcohol, the level of impairment is magnified several folds.

In 2014, the CDC estimated that there were 7,000 new marijuana users every day. They also estimated that 13% of nighttime and weekend drivers had THC in their system. This makes marijuana the second most common drug in the driver's systems after alcohol.

Nationwide, there is a patchwork of laws, and each state determines what level is considered legally impaired. Seventeen states have "zero tolerance" laws, which make it illegal to drive with any measurable quantity of marijuana in the blood. Four states have per se laws that allow drivers to have a limited quantity of THC measurable in the blood, and Colorado follows a reasonable inference law that allows for up to 5ng.

Contact Brad Pistotnik Law at 1-800-241-BRAD or call us on our local line at 316-684-4400. Brad Pistotnik represents clients who suffer personal injuries in an automobile, truck, or motorcycle accident caused by an impaired driver in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Texas. When impaired driving causes personal injuries and wrongful deaths, we help plaintiffs recover the compensation they are entitled to receive. You can call Brad Pistotnik on his cell at 316-706-5020. You can reach Tony Atterbury on his cell at 316-617-9237.