Report: Drugged driving fatalities have risen considerably

There's no question that attitudes toward driving under the influence of alcohol have changed considerably here in the U.S. over the last several decades, with more people than ever understanding just how dangerous this behavior is. Indeed, statistics show that while alcohol was a factor in 55 percent of fatal crashes in 1982, this number has since declined to roughly 33 percent.

As encouraging as this development is, a recently released report by the Governors Highway Safety Association reveals that the threat posed by impaired driving not only remains very real, but has actually evolved.

Authored by a former senior official with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the report found that 43 percent of drivers who died in car crashes had some sort of drug in their system, while 38 percent of drivers who died in car crashes had alcohol in their system.

Based on 2015 data, the most recent year for which complete numbers are available, the report is actually a follow-up to a 2015 study, which determined (based on 2013 data) that the number of drivers who died in car crashes with drugs or alcohol in their system was roughly equal at 40 percent.

While the report offers a host of reasons as to why drugged driving-related fatalities are trending upward, one of the most notable offered by the author is that Americans are misinformed as to how drugs -- both legal and illegal -- can impair their driving abilities.

Somewhat disturbingly, the report also found that the fatal drugged driving numbers could actually be higher given that the 50 states take different approaches to how and when autopsies are performed. Furthermore, it found that marijuana was the most commonly detected drug in the systems of deceased drivers, a serious concern given that the drug is now legal in some form in 29 states.

It wasn't all bad news, however, as the report did offer some recommendations for states to consider taking to address the problem of driving under the influence of drugs, including an increased emphasis on public education.

Here's hoping state legislatures take these recommendations to heart …

If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a car accident caused by an impaired driver, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options for pursuing justice.

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