Drugged driving an underreported problem in Oklahoma

Drugged driving has surged throughout the U.S., but it is likely underreported in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma has done much to combat the opioid epidemic, yet overdose deaths in the state continue to rise. As KGOU News reports, while opioid deaths are decreasing, overdose fatalities from methamphetamine and heroine are on the rise, with overall drug overdose deaths rising 68 percent in the state between 2007 and 2016. What often goes underappreciated about the drug epidemic, however, is the effect it has on road safety. In fact, a number of recent studies have shown that impaired driving caused by drugs is on the rise, and that in Oklahoma specifically the true scope of the problem may be underreported.

Rise of drugged driving nationwide

As USA Today reports, one recent study looked at drug test results that had been performed on drivers who had been killed in traffic accidents dating back to 1995. The researchers analyzed the test results from six states and found that the number of deceased drivers who tested positive for prescription painkillers surged from just one percent in 1995 to 7.2 percent in 2015. Furthermore, 70 percent of those who tested positive for opioids also had other drugs in their systems, while 30 percent also had high levels of alcohol.

The Oklahoman also reports that a separate study by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that nationwide 40 percent of drivers killed in accidents test positive for drugs, which is almost as high as the percentage that test positive for alcohol.

Drugged driving in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, determining the extent of drugged driving is a bit difficult. As The Oklahoman also reports, in 2015 there were 1,040 drug-related accidents in the state. In recent years, there has actually been a decline in the number of reported DUI arrests in the state, with such arrests falling by 22 percent between 2012 and 2015.

However, that decline may be due to the fact that not all police agencies in the state share their DUI arrest statistics with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Furthermore, as regards drugged driving specifically, in many cases once police have established that a person is driving under the influence of alcohol they will not perform the additional tests needed to show whether or not the driver may also be impaired by narcotics.

Finally, recognizing impairment by drugs requires special training which many police officers in Oklahoma still lack. Unlike with alcohol, there is currently no Breathalyzer-type device that can quickly help officers determine whether or not a driver is high on drugs. Taken together, these factors all suggest that Oklahoma's drugged driving problem is significantly underreported.

Personal injury law

For those who have been hurt in a motor vehicle accident, it is imperative that they get help right away. While one's first phone call should always be to 911, a personal injury attorney should be contacted immediately afterwards. That's because an attorney can help clients with the various legal concerns that arise after an accident, most importantly with helping make claims for compensation that could help alleviate some of the financial burden caused by a crash.