As an increasing number of cities in Pennsylvania decriminalize cannabis, reflecting a national trend toward legalization, transportation safety officials are warning about the dangers of impaired driving. The National Transportation Safety Board called for the development of standards to determine when a driver is too impaired by cannabis to operate a vehicle safely. While the standards for alcohol intoxication have been set and are measured in blood alcohol concentration, no such consensus exists about the influence of cannabis on driving ability.
The NTSB urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create uniform standards that police could use to test drivers on the roadside for drug impairment. In addition to the legalization of cannabis, the opioid epidemic sweeping the country has also led to severe accidents involving dangerously impaired driving. In one 2017 collision in rural Texas, 13 people were killed when a pickup truck slammed into a church bus. The truck driver was found to be under the influence of sedatives as well as marijuana; before the crash, the truck had repeatedly veered off the road and into the shoulder.
Statistics have shown that deaths linked to drug-impaired driving have risen in the past 10 years. In 2006, 30 percent of the drivers who died in crashes and were drug tested were found to be under the influence. In 2015, that number rose to 46 percent. Another study found that 22 percent of drivers tested randomly on the roadside showed evidence of drug use. As no standards exist to evaluate these results, the level of impairment indicated is unclear.
Whether linked to substances, excessive fatigue or distracting technology, negligent driving can cause severe injuries, permanent disabilities and even fatalities. A personal injury lawyer can help family members who lost loved ones in a crash to pursue a wrongful death claim against those responsible.