A recent statistic may be hard to believe: Drugged driving is now a bigger threat to the safety of Tennessee drivers than drunk driving.

The data, collected by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, indicates an 89 percent increase in drug-related fatal motor vehicle accidents from 2010 to 2015. In 2015, for example, 174 people died because of drug-impaired drivers, compared to 136 deaths caused by drunk drivers.

So what type of drugs are behind this trend? Marijuana legalization efforts have been a focus of recent media attention, particularly regarding the perceived consequences to road safety. In Tennessee, however, the biggest culprit behind drugged driving is prescription mediation, such as opioid pain medications.

Pain medications and other prescription drugs often contain warning labels about operating vehicles while under the drug’s influence. However, lawmakers have not yet established precise standards for drugged driving. Said another way, it is not illegal to drive while under the influence of certain prescription medications. However, non-criminal behavior can still rise to the level of negligence and pose a safety threat. 

Our personal injury law firm understands this distinction well. There are many different kinds of behaviors that might breach the duty of safe driving expected behind the wheel. We view a driver’s license as an implicit agreement to abide by traffic laws and to drive with a reasonable standard of care.

Safe driving demands a driver’s focus and concentration on traffic flow and road and weather conditions. A driver that cannot muster that focus due to prescription medication has no business getting behind the wheel. If a drugged driver has injured you, our personal injury law firm can utilize a civil lawsuit and fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

Source: The Tennessean, “Drugged driving overtakes alcohol in Tennessee road deaths,” Mike Reicher, Sept. 29, 2016