A new study suggests that driving under the influence of drugs is a growing problem that lawmakers should be concerned with. Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health conducted a study by looking at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) crash data for 6 states including New Hampshire from the years 1999 to 2010. As reported on Healthline.com, they found that 24.8% of drivers who died within one hour of a car accident tested positive for drug intoxication. While alcohol impairment was still a more common factor in fatal crashes, this study noticed that non-alcohol-related drug cases rose from 16.6% to 28.3% from the earlier years of the study to the most recent. Marijuana cases alone rose from 4.2% to 12.2%.
In addition to this data, a study performed by the NHTSA in 2007 titled The National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers noted that 1 in 8 weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for an illegal drug. In addition, 1 in 8 high school seniors reported driving a vehicle after consuming marijuana during a 2010 Monitoring the Future Study and the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 33.9% of adolescents and adults have driven under the influence of drugs within one year when the study was performed. As these studies suggest, people may be less concerned about the dangers of consuming drugs and driving.
One of the biggest problems with drug DWI charges is the fact that drug intoxication is not like alcohol intoxication. When a person consumes alcohol, they are impaired as long as the alcohol is in their system. Traces of drugs, however, can remain in a person's body for several days or even several weeks. The researchers from Columbia Institute recognize that a person can still test positive for marijuana for up to one week after consumption but fail to note what percentage of drivers this is likely true for.
New Hampshire DWI law states that no person shall operate a vehicle while under the influence of “any controlled drug, prescription drug, over-the-counter drug, or any other chemical substance, natural or synthetic, which impairs a person's ability to drive”. While this is a good definition for determining what substances can result in a DWI charge, how this is determined is not explained. For example, in some states, like Washington, DWI law spells out how much THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) can be in driver's system before they are considered per se DWI.
The Healthline article suggests that more emphasis needs to be placed on the dangers of drugged driving and penalties involved. The majority of DWI enforcement awareness is focused on alcohol. As Dr. Jane Metri, an assistant professor at Brown University's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies states:
“Perceived danger and social norms are very influential in predicting high driving," Metrik added. "There is a general trend in increased public acceptance of marijuana along with perceived lack of negative consequences from use.”
If you have been accused of DWI in New Hampshire, contact a defense lawyer at Russman Law today.