The National Institute of Health, National Institute of Drug Abuse reported some alarming facts from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)2007 survey. According to NHTSA's 2007 National Roadside Survey, more than 16 percent of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription or over-the-counter medications while 11 percent tested positive for illicit drugs. In another NHTSA survey, 18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one drug.
The number of people who have been killed or severely injured by drivers under the influence of prescription or illicit drugs is unacceptable. Fortunately, the issue has gotten the attention of our lawmakers. United States Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Mark Pryor of Arkansas recently announced that they are proposing that federal funding in a pending transportation funding bill be used for research and to train police to identify drugged drivers. The senators also hope that technology will be developed which can test for and identify drivers under the influence of drugs. Currently, no such technology or materials exist.
With prescription drug abuse spiraling out of control, more and more drivers are driving in an intoxicated state. Our governmental leaders need to ensure that funds are properly earmarked to rebut this problem; our law enforcement must have the tools they need to detect drugged drivers; and the dangers of driving while on drugs must be publicized so that the issue is on our society's radar.
Greg Spizer is a partner of Anapol Weiss and co-chairs the firm's Mass Tort Department. He concentrates his practice on pharmaceutical liability, professional malpractice, products liability and other civil and commercial litigation.