Drug impairment frequent cause of Chicago car accidents

The number of drivers who tested positive for drugs in the aftermath of a fatal crash has increased in the last five years, according to a new study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Like drunk driving accidents, drug involvement frequently leads to impairment which can contribute to serious and fatal car accidents in Chicago and the surrounding area.Serious and fatal accidents involving the allegations of drug use require an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer. Some drugs remain in a driver’s system long after their ability to impair driving ability. For instance, marijuana remains in a person’s system for about a month. As the government points out, the presence of drugs in a driver’s system does not mean that he or she was impaired at the time of the crash.

But a first-of-its-kind analysis came to a startling conclusion: About 1 in 6 drivers involved in fatal accidents tested positive for drugs. Of the 21,798 drivers killed in crashes last year, 63 percent were tested for drugs. Eighteen percent of those tested had drugs in their system.

Drug use among fatally injured drivers has also increased in state reports, from 13 percent in 2005 to 18 percent in 2008.

The study includes tests for narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens and other types of mood-altering substances. Drugs included illegal narcotics, prescribed medications and over-the-counter drugs.

Authorities are urging drivers to take the side effects of medication seriously and to take responsibility for avoiding the dangers of driving impaired even when prescription or over-the-counter medications are responsible.

“Every driver on the road has a personal responsibility to operate his or her vehicle with full and uncompromised attention on the driving task,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “Today’s report provides a warning signal that too many Americans are driving after having taken drugs, not realizing the potential for putting themselves and others on the highway at risk.”

As part of the battle, the federal government’s Drug Evaluation and Classification program has trained 1,000 instructors and 6,000 police officers in 46 states to recognize symptoms of impairment by drugs other than alcohol.

“If you are taking any drugs that might impair your ability to drive safely, then you need to put common sense and caution to the forefront, and give your keys to someone else,” Strickland said. “It doesn’t matter if its drugs or alcohol, if you’re impaired, don’t drive.”

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