Drugged driving on the rise, becomes more deadly than drunk driving

ELKHART, Ind. --

The summer months are the peak time of the year for serious crashes, and impaired driving plays a part in many of those.

A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association found drugged driving is becoming more of an issue on the roads, with more and more drivers in fatal crashes found with drugs in their system.

The study found 43.6% of drivers in fatal crashes in 2016 had drugs in their system. That’s compared to 37.9% of the drivers that year testing positive for alcohol in their system.

From 2006 to 2016 the study found an almost 16 percent increase in fatal crashes with drugs involved and about a 3 percent drop in fatal crashes with alcohol involved.

The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department says impaired driving in all forms continues to be an issue. 

“In this day and age we fight multiple battles with distracted driving, then you have drug impairment and people still do the same things that distract them from the road while they’re impaired,” said Captain Michael Culp, Patrol Commander with the Elkhart County Sheriff's Departmant. “Same with alcohol impaired driving, and we really need to make a conscientious effort when we’re behind the wheel that we actually pay attention to the road.”

So far in Elkhart County this year, there have been seven deadly crashes. Two of those drivers tested positive for some type of drug, one tested positive for alcohol levels above the legal limit.

Culp says the department increased training for all their officers to recognize drivers who are drug-impaired after seeing drugged driving become more of an issue in recent years.

“Really when we had issues is where we have synthetic marijuana start to become more popular,” said Culp. “Any time the economy is real good, and there’s a lot of people working it seems like money is not as much of an issue, we start to see more issues with both alcohol impaired and drug impaired driving.”

He says most of the information and data nationwide focuses on alcohol when it comes to impaired driving rather than drugs, and says increasing awareness and education could help decrease drugged driving. 

"I think it is a common misperception that if you're just mildly under the influence that you're more focused because you realize that, but the results of your driving and what we observe would actually prove differently," said Culp. "If we can get more information out there that talks about maybe the level of impairment, and clear up some of the misperceptions that certain drugs are okay to take and then operate a vehicle, I think we may be able to make some headway on it."

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