It’s common knowledge that drinking and driving is a major problem in the US. Too many fatalities occur every year at the hand of drunk drivers. However, many people don’t realize that drugged driving may be an even larger problem. While drunk driving is an issue, driving while on drugs may be worse.

The Problem

In 2015, there were more deaths from drugged driving than there were with drunk driving. When fatally injured drivers were tested that year, more drivers tested positive for drugs than for alcohol. While 43% of them tested positive for drugs, 37% of them tested positive for alcohol. It seems as if drugs were the culprit for many fatalities in 2015. Although people often consider alcohol use to be the biggest problem on the road, statistics show that drug use may be an even bigger problem.

It’s important to note that some experts still deny that drugged driving is a bigger problem than drunk driving. There hasn’t been much research into the issue. Until there are more studies, we have to rely on the facts. And right now, the facts seem to point to drugs as a major problem on the US roads.

What makes drugged driving so complicated?

Cracking down on drinking and driving isn’t too difficult. It’s one problem with several simple solutions. To combat drunk driving, police officers step up DUI checkpoints. They have the tools necessary to determine whether or not someone is impaired by alcohol. Additionally, the law is simple and firm. Every state has a BAC for DUIs that determines the impairment of a driver. If a driver is over that level, an officer can arrest them for drunk driving.

Drugged driving is a little more complicated. For one, all the states have different laws surrounding the issue. While all states make impaired driving illegal, each state has very different laws about the issue. There is no single definition for impaired driving. In one state, you could be committing impaired driving. But in another, you may not be committing a crime at all.

In addition to having varied definitions on impaired driving, every state has different practices. While there are only a few ways to test for drinking and driving, the states use very different methods of testing for drugged driving. There are no standard testing practices, and the laws vary on how often testing can occur and for which drugs you can screen.

Too many drugs

Part of the reason that impaired driving is so complicated is the sheer number of drugs. With drunk driving, you only have alcohol to worry about. But drugged driving involves hundreds of different drugs. In fact, it involves over 400 different drugs. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tracks over 400 types of drugs. Unfortunately, there is no one way to test for all of those drugs. What shows up in one test may not show up in another. Enforcing impaired driving laws is difficult when you can’t easily determine whether a driver is impaired.

Of course, every drug has a different effect on the driver. For example, marijuana impairs drivers less than heroin might. Also complicating matters is the fact that marijuana is legal in many states. While scientists are still researching ways to determine the impairment of someone on marijuana, there is no way for them to currently determine that.

With marijuana use more common, it may mean that impaired driving is also more common. In one  Colorado survey, more than half of the participants drove within two hours of using marijuana.  Although using marijuana is legal in Colorado, driving high is not. There is evidence that shows driving while on marijuana could slow your reaction time. However, this doesn’t seem to stop marijuana users from getting behind the wheel of a car. Impaired driving could become an even bigger problem as more states legalize marijuana.

The Consequences of Drugged Driving

With the frequency of impaired driving increasing, you might think that the problem lies within the consequences of impaired driving. However, the consequences don’t differ much from drunk driving. In fact, many states treat the two crimes with the same penalties.

In Massachusetts, drugged driving and drunk driving both result in a DUI. However, there is a difference in one of the laws surrounding your arrest. While there are penalties for refusing a breathalyzer or chemical test for drunk driving, it doesn’t apply to drugged driving. You can refuse a chemical sample, and you won’t be subject to any penalties.

If you do find yourself guilty of impaired driving, you face the same penalties as drunk driving. You could face a fine, license suspension and house arrest. If you have a prior DUI, the penalty becomes more serious. Whether your DUI was for alcohol or drugs is irrelevant; the court views it as the same crime.

Drugged driving is a complicated issue, and it’s a common issue. If you find yourself arrested for impaired driving, you need help from a lawyer with experience.