Drunk driving accidents can often result in catastrophic injuries. What many do not realize, however, is that drugged driving may be just as serious, and often leads to fatal accidents. Recently, a AAA Drugged Driving Summit was held at the DoubleTree Westshore hotel in Tampa. The main purpose of the summit was to address the fact that since more and more parts of the country are allowing at least some form of legal marijuana consumption, steps need to be taken regarding auto safety in order to contend with the ever growing population of drivers who are either high from marijuana or other forms of prescriptions drugs while driving.

AAA Drugged Driving Summit

Jake Nelson, the director of traffic safety advocacy and research for AAA, stated that one of the main issues is that today the THC concentration in marijuana is much higher than it was in the past, and thus more likely to impair a driver who is under the influence of this high-concentration marijuana. He stated that “Thirty years ago, the concentration of THC in cannabis was between one and three percent, and today there are some strains of cannabis that have some THC concentrations as high as 30 percent.” Nelson states that this just one of the many reasons why driving while impaired by marijuana has become such a major issue not only in Florida, but also in the country as a whole. Unfortunately though, this issue is currently unaddressed and also lacks reliable data.

Hundreds of people attended the forum that was held in Tampa. Attendees included state lawmakers Jeff Brandes and Larry Ahern, as well as several state prosecutors and members of local law enforcement agencies.

Stricter Regulations for Drugged Driving

Advocates for more regulations regarding the issue of drugged driving state that there are many problems with the current system that we have implemented. They state one problem is that throughout the United States, states vary widely in regards to testing for drugs and alcohol after a fatal accident has occurred. Some states will test up to 85 percent of those that are involved in such fatal accidents, where others test as few as two percent. Another issue arises if a single driver tested positive for both drugs and alcohol. Having both substances in their system makes it difficult to determine whether alcohol or the drugs was more responsible.

Jake Nelson argues that in order to fix this problem, they first need more data. He stated that “Without good data, we don’t truly understand the scope of the problem. We’re making public policy without good data.”

Drugged Driving in Florida

Bruce Goldberger, a professor of toxicology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, stated that drugs are a constant factor in traffic crashes in Florida. Goldberger stated that drugged driving motorists are much more difficult to prosecute than alcohol-inspired driving. He further stated that any drug, including over-the-counter-prescriptions, could affect a person’s brain perception, as well as the collection, processing and storing of information. The professor stated that, “When people begin a new medication, they’re slightly more likely to suffer a crash.”

Currently, in Florida there is a specific program in relation to drugged driving. The Florida Drug Recognition (DRE) Program consists of officers who have received specialized training and will be called to a scene to evaluate suspects detained by law enforcement. A DRE officer’s job is to evaluate the suspect in question and determine if they are impaired, what category(s) are causing the impairment, and if a medical condition is the cause of an impairment. There are currently 203 certified DRE Officers in Florida.

Have You Been Injured?

Impaired drivers, whether through alcohol or drugs, are a very serious threat to all drivers on the roadways. If you or someone you know was injured by a driver who was under the influence of any substance, it is important to contact a legal professional. From our office in Brandon, we help clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida. Contact Reed & Reed for a free consultation.