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Drug use becoming more prevalent in fatal crashes

New Mexico drivers might be interested in the findings of a Governors Highway Safety Association report about fatal car accidents and drugs. The impact of marijuana and opioids on traffic fatalities has increased in recent years. According to the report, 44 percent of drivers who died in traffic accidents tested positive for the presence of drugs in their systems in 2016. In 2006, only 28 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs.

Among those drivers who were killed in car accidents and tested positive for drugs during 2016, 16 percent had positive tests for opioids, 38 percent had positive tests for marijuana and 4 percent tested positive for both opioids and marijuana. By comparison, alcohol was found in the systems of 38 percent of drivers who died in car accidents in 2016, down from 41 percent in 2006.

Among the challenges facing law enforcement in efforts to combat drug-impaired driving is the lack of a method that has been accepted nationally to test levels of impairment. There are many different drugs that such a method should test for, and different drugs may have highly varied impacts on different drivers.

Drivers mixing several substances are also cause for concern. Among fatally injured drivers who tested positive for drugs, 51 percent were found to have two or more drugs in their systems. Data for the report came from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's U.S. and Canadian roadside surveys and its Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

When a person is injured in a car accident caused by an impaired driver, an attorney may be able to help. Injured parties may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses or other damages. An attorney with experience in personal injury law might help by reviewing medical records, police reports and other documentary evidence or by arguing on the client's behalf during court proceedings.

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