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Stuart, FL, March 01, 2012 – New data shows that teen drivers fail to appreciate the danger of driving while under the influence of illegal drugs such as marijuana, South Florida car accident lawyer Philip DeBerard, III, said today.

DeBerard pointed to a recent survey by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). More teens in the survey said they had driven under the influence of marijuana than alcohol.

DeBerard said that hard-won safety gains from curbing drunk driving could unravel if young motorists continue to ignore the danger of driving after smoking marijuana or using other illegal drugs.

“The most frightening thing is that so many young drivers don’t think that marijuana will affect their driving,” DeBerard said. “They are wrong. They could be putting themselves and others at risk for a serious auto accident.”

DeBerard’s South Florida personal injury firm represents people injured in car accidents caused by drunk drivers and drug-impaired drivers in Stuart and along the Treasure Coast.

The U.S. has made significant progress on the issue of drunk driving in the past few decades, DeBerard said. He pointed to recently released stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA shows that DUI deaths fell 5 percent in 2010 to 10,228. That marks a roughly 50 percent decrease from 30 years ago.

However, the progress on drunk driving faces a serious threat from the use of marijuana and other drugs, DeBerard said.

Teenagers, in particular, display an increasing acceptance of marijuana, the Liberty Mutual/SADD figures show. Roughly one-in-five teenagers in the survey said they had driven under the influence of marijuana. Only 13 percent said they had driven after drinking alcohol.

The survey also revealed that 36 percent of teens who say they have driven after smoking marijuana believe the drug has no negative impact on their driving abilities. That’s compared to only 19 percent of teenagers who said they had driven after drinking and believed that alcohol had no effect on their driving.

“It is clear from these results that the youngest drivers on our highways don’t appreciate the tragedies that drugged driving can cause, including life-changing or even life-ending auto accidents,” DeBerard said. “We can’t stand by as drug-impaired drivers erase all of the gains we have made by reducing drunk driving.”

DeBerard cited a recent study published in the British Medical Journal. The study found that people who smoked marijuana within three hours before driving were nearly twice as likely to have a crash.

Another study in Epidemiologic Reviews found that 30 percent of drivers killed in wrecks had drugs other than alcohol in their system. Marijuana was the most common drug.
“Florida and the rest of the country need to get serious about marijuana-impaired driving,” DeBerard said. “We need to make sure we have the laws and resources to make the public aware of the dangers of drugged driving. We need to punish those who ignore the risks.”

Florida law already outlaws driving under the influence of “any chemical substance” or “any controlled substance” that impairs a person’s normal faculties. Driving under the influence of marijuana can fit that definition, DeBerard said.

He encouraged anyone who has been injured by an impaired driver to talk with a qualified Florida accident lawyer. An impaired driving crash lawsuit can allow victims or victims’ families to recover compensation for injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering and more, DeBerard said.

About Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney

The law firm of Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney, has provided professional and compassionate legal assistance to personal injury and accident victims in South Florida on the Treasure Coast since 1975. The firm’s practice areas include car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, product liability, dog bite injuries, swimming pool accidents, slip and fall injuries, medical malpractice, and wrongful death claims.

The firm represents clients throughout the South Florida communities of Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce, Jupiter, Stuart, Okeechobee, Vero Beach, Palm Beach and across the state of Florida. For more information, call (800) 299-8878 or use the firm’s online contact form.