A report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association says that drug impairment is becoming more and more of a problem on the nation’s highways. The primary fact used to reach this conclusion is that back in 2015, a higher percentage of drivers involved in fatal automobile crashes were allegedly under the influence of drugs (43%), than those under the influence of alcohol (37%). Since the legal use of marijuana (medical and recreational) has become more widespread, some immediately conclude that the new marijuana laws are sparking an epidemic of driving under the influence of pot. Well, we’re not so sure.
There are several issues that affect our confidence on both the report and the conclusions drawn from it. Don’t get us wrong – we’re not advocating driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including marijuana. On the other hand, just because an organization with the word “Governors” in it makes a statement, that doesn’t mean it should be treated as gospel.
We’re not going to go through the entire report and point out every possible problem with its conclusions. But we will say a couple of things about the study:
- Since there is no scientifically agreed level of impairment with drugs such as marijuana, nor a roadside test to determine the level, conclusions of impairment because of drug use may be suspect. It’s one thing to say a driver had some metabolite of marijuana in his system. It’s quite another to say he was impaired.
- While the GHSA sounds as if it’s an official body, and maybe, to a certain extent, it is, the study we’re talking about was underwritten by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. That organization’s members include the manufacturers of Bacardi rum, Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Gordon’s, Johnny Walker, Tanqueray, Smirnoff, Cutty Sark, Corona beer, and other. This could lead to the perception that even if the figures are accurate, the conclusions are based on an agenda of diverting attention away from DUI alcohol.
Having said that, it’s clear to us that drunk driving and drugged driving are serious issues in this country, but blaming the drugged driving problem on pot may be somewhat of a stretch.
DUI Drugs in Arizona
Yet another study has emerged on DUI’s in Arizona. The conclusion is that DUI drugs is growing statewide. Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But this study is also flawed. What it says is that the incidence of DUI drugs is increasing because last year there were more DUI arrests based on drugs than the year before. But here’s one problem. An arrest means, at best, that an officer has a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, and that the suspect committed it. Conviction rates vary widely from place to place, and could be as high as 90% in some areas, or as low 63% in others. In some places over one-third of all DUI cases get dismissed. Relying on arrests to reach conclusions might be helpful evidence; on the other hand, it could mean virtually nothing, and reliance on those figures could lead to erroneous conclusions.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004