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Study: Driving under the influence of drugs is on the rise

A nationwide effort to cut down on drunk driving has apparently proven to be successful. Ad campaigns and law enforcement efforts to crackdown on DUIs seem to be working. Since 2007, the number of drunk drivers on the road has decreased by close to 33 percent. However, new studies have shown that many people are driving while under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs.

One survey conducted last year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that almost one quarter of motorists who completed the survey were under the influence of a drug that put themselves or others at risk. Approximately eight percent of drivers on weekend nights were under the influence of alcohol, with just over one percent above the 0.08 percent legal limit.

The survey was voluntary and anonymous in order to get honest information from a variety of motorists. There were road signs that indicated that a data-collection site was nearby and drivers were asked to stop if they would like to participate.

With a number of drivers under the influence of drugs, particularly marijuana, the NHTSA decided to conduct another study in Virginia Beach to determine whether marijuana usage actually increased the risk of road accidents. Researchers collected data from 3,000 crashes in the area over the course of 20 months. The study showed that marijuana may impair judgment and reaction times and does lead to an increased risk. However, it is important to note that young men are the most likely to smoke marijuana, and are already in a high risk category when it comes to crashes.

These studies are just the start of what is a long process to learn more about how drugs affect safety on the roads. With more information, officials hope that they will be able to greatly limit all forms of driving under the influence.

However, this new-found zest to deal with those allegedly driving under the influence of drugs could lead to hasty arrests and wrongful charges. Therefore, those accused of DUI should always consider their legal defense options and how best to fight for what is best for them.

Source: The Washington Post, "Fewer people driving drunk, but drug use on the road is rising," Ashley Hasley III, Feb. 8, 2015

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