Safe driving campaigns are nothing new in Massachusetts. For decades, our state and counties have poured millions of dollars into educating motorists about the need to buckle up, and to refrain from speeding and drinking and driving. More recently, social media and other campaigns were directed toward drivers who text and drive and use hand-held devices. But with the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational use, safety advocates have felt the need to educate the public about this newest hazard to drivers and pedestrians, especially when marijuana is combined with alcohol.
In 2019, Massachusetts Governor Baker announced a safe driving campaign called “Wisdom” that was directed toward men aged 18 to 34 since this is the group most likely to be involved in drunk driving and drug-impaired accidents. Television spots featured people who told graphic tales of driving after ingesting marijuana, alcohol and other drugs that had catastrophic consequences.
Governor Baker announcing the campaign late last summer emphasized the public’s misperceptions about drugged driving and the effect it has on driving conduct. Studies showed a public that displayed an alarming ignorance and casual attitude toward marijuana use while driving. The studies showed:
- Many motorists had no idea that marijuana slows perception/reaction time significantly
- Some said they would drive high but would not do a job interview, use power tools, or watch young children
- A majority of those surveyed said the law is not a deterrent to their driving after using marijuana
- Many considered it worse to drink and drive than to drive after smoking a joint or ingesting edible marijuana
Statistics on impaired driving demonstrate the prevalence of marijuana use in motorists involved in driving accidents and especially among young male motorists:
- 78% of drivers in impaired driving fatalities were male
- 35% of these males were 29 years old or younger
- Marijuana was the most common drug found in drivers involved in fatal accidents
- 11% of drivers in fatal accidents had both marijuana and alcohol in their blood
- Fatal car accidents involving drivers with at least a 0.08% BAC and marijuana in their system has increased by 63% since 2013
- A survey conducted in 2013-2014 found that 22% of all drivers had ingested some type of drug before driving
Mixing alcohol and marijuana dramatically increases its effects than if either drug is used alone. With marijuana legally accessible, we are seeing more people combining it with alcohol that only magnifies the risk of being in a serious or fatal car accident.
There are periodic DUI checkpoints where officers are trained to look not only for alcohol use but drugs as well. Part of the “Wisdom” campaign involved increased funding to counties for enforcement during the summer when more cars are on the roads, and in training officers in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement and Drug Recognition Expert programs. These enable officers who have detained drivers pulled over for a traffic violation or erratic driving conduct to conduct field tests to determine if they may be under the influence of drugs. If so, they are asked to take a blood test.
Damages in Wrongful Death Claims
Fatal accidents have devastating impacts on families. No amount of money can ever replace a loved one, but families do need and deserve compensation from the responsible parties because of the substantial loss of income, burial and funeral costs, as well as for the emotional loss.
Damages in wrongful death cases in Massachusetts typically include:
- Medical expenses if any that were sustained before the decedent succumbed
- Loss of the income the decedent would have earned over his/her working life
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Pain and suffering of the decedent if he/she suffered in the moments, days, weeks, or months before death
- Loss of the decedent’s love, comfort, guidance, and companionship
- Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent, wanton, or willful
Driving while impaired alone may not be sufficient to qualify for an award of punitive damages. Usually, the defendant’s conduct must be combined with some other egregious conduct such as driving at a high rate of speed, or having an elevated blood alcohol concentration level (at least 0.15%), or evidence of a combination of marijuana and alcohol. Talk to an experienced car accident lawyer about damages in a wrongful death claim.
Retain a Car Accident Lawyer from Burns and Jain
A highly knowledgeable car accident lawyer from Burns and Jain can counsel you about wrongful death claims, the process, and potential damages. Proving damages is essential if you are to obtain the most compensation for your case. Call the law offices of Burns and Jain at (617) 249-7980 for a free consultation about your injury or wrongful death claim.