TENNESSEE (WJHL)- Drunk driving is no longer the leading cause of fatal crashes in Tennessee as the latest data shows that drugs are playing a bigger role in deadly crashes. Tennessee Highway Patrol Sergeant Noah Click said, “Drugs and vehicles is a deadly combination. Not only do you take your own life into your hands but you’re taking the lives of anyone around you.”
According to the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, the number of drug-involved fatal crashes increased from 188 in 2014 to 260 in 2015. Driver Cindy Gilland said, “It’s not a secure driving situation for any of us when you see the amount of people driving under the influence.”
Click attributes the rise in drug-related crashes to drugs being more available and often -times cheaper than alcohol with a large variety to choose and abuse. Click said, “There are many drugs that impair your ability to drive and all it takes is one for them to be impaired and I think that’s why you’re seeing those numbers going up.”
Click says another reason for the rise could be patients not following their doctor’s instructions. Click said, “We have a lot of prescription meds that say on the bottle ‘Do not take this and drive’ and that is why. You have to be alert to drive and a lot of these drugs slow your reaction time down,” he said.
While the number of drug-related fatal crashes in Tennessee has risen, the amount of alcohol related crashes has slightly decreased from 235 in 2014 to 220 in 2015.
Gilland says more can be done. She said, “We have to be more diligent … you have to be on guard and on the lookout.” “It’s not just you that you have to worry about, but the others around you,” Gilland added.
Click says the easiest way to keep the number from rising any higher is for people to stop abusing drugs and alcohol altogether. He said, “All it takes is one split second and a DUI or an impaired drug driving charge will follow you for the rest of your life. So, just use common sense and make the right choice.”
The Tennessee Highway Safety Office says since 2012 the number of classes for officers to identify drug use has doubled giving them the knowledge to accurately detect and prosecute drug-impaired driving.Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.