Teen Drugged Driving in Maine a Serious Threat to Road Safety

Much attention is given to teen drunk driving – and that attention is well-deserved.

What receives less attention is teens driving under the influence of drugs. Road and Travel Magazine reports that, for teens, driving under the influence of drugs is just as common as driving under the influence of alcohol. A recent survey by National Drug Control Policy found that of the more than 750,000 high school students who admitted to driving under the influence of illicit drugs, 1 in 7 reported “in the car” as the place they were most likely to use.

Bangor car accident attorneys know we needn’t look too far for evidence of this locally.

Last month, a 17-year-old girl lost control of her vehicle on U.S. Route 1 in Belfast. Witnesses say she skidded along the guardrail, struck a bridge abutment, careened over a grassy area and then slammed into a truck.

Several Good Samaritans came to her rescue, finding her unconscious, not breathing and without a heartbeat. They began CPR until emergency crews could arrive. She was listed in critical condition. Only early this month did officials say she was expected to make a full recovery. Although the investigation is ongoing, authorities have indicated that drugs were involved. Authorities have declined to say at this point what led them to that conclusion.

Also recently, an 18-year-old was arrested in Portland on numerous charges after he was found slumped over the steering wheel of his vehicle.  He initially attempted to flee from police at a high rate of speed, causing him to lose control of his vehicle at an intersection, slam into two parked cars and then strike a utility pole. Police later found hallucinogenic mushrooms and marijuana in his possession, and he was believed to have been under the influence of those drugs.

These kinds of issues have been on the rise in Maine since the passage of medical marijuana laws in 1999, particularly as cities like Portland have passed measures to legalize the possession of non-medical marijuana. The Maine Department of Transportation reports that for 2009 and 2010 (the most recent years for which data was available), the drug class that includes marijuana was ranked as No. 1 in impaired driving cases where a police drug recognition expert was called to the scene.

A December 2013 survey conducted by the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, indicated 52 percent high school teens reported daily use of marijuana carried little or no risk. That’s up substantially from 44 percent who answered that way in 2011 and 39 percent who answered that way in 2009.

Authorities say it’s not uncommon for teen drivers under the influence of alcohol to also have marijuana in their system.

Regardless of the medical benefits that marijuana can provide when use is prescribed and overseen by a medical doctor, there is no question that the drug impacts one’s psychomotor performance. Maine’s Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services reports that drivers under the influence of marijuana often tend to compensate for impairment by driving slower than normal, which can create a host of its own hazards. There is also the risk of decreased attention, vigilance and dulled perception of time and speed.

Nationally, one out of every three fatally-injured drivers in 2009 tested positive for drugs.

Given that summer is already an especially dangerous time for teen motorists, it’s imperative that parents talk to their children about the potential risks of getting behind the wheel while impaired.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Teenager whose heart stopped in Belfast accident has recovered, police continue probe, May 8, 2014, By Abigail Curtis, Bangor Daily

More Blog Entries:

Maine Teen Drivers Fail to Obey GDL Laws, With Fatal Consequences, April 25, 2014, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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