Christopher Farr, a 43-year-old man from Arvada, was traveling in his Cadillac SUV on Ward Road when he crashed into a Ford F150 pickup causing a multi-car accident that took his life and the lives of three others. It was determined that Farr was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time. Jill McGranahan of the police department explained that it was determined he had 400 nanograms of the drug in his system. Farr, who would have potentially faced criminal charges, had no other drugs or alcohol in his system. After Farr crashed into the Ford truck, he smashed into a Hyundai, which killed both Judith and Alan Peterson. Lorene Hicks, who was on a motorcycle, was the other fatality in the incident that led to the temporary closure of Ward Road between West 58th and West 64th Avenue on September 13, 2017.
Study at University of Washington Toxicology Lab
The University of Washington conducted a study that analyzed the way methamphetamine affects human behavior, particularly driving performance. The study focused on 28 instances where drivers were either arrested or involved in dangerous auto accidents. In the majority of the arrests, the driver who tested positive for meth was determined to be at-fault. Some of the behaviors demonstrated while driving included various lane violations, weaving, and collisions while traveling at high rates of speed. Arrestees showed abrupt speech patterns, pupil dilation, aggressive demeanor, and paranoia. Meth users who are driving are a risk to both those in other vehicles as well as pedestrians, who could be victims of the user’s inattentiveness. Marijuana was detected in roughly 1/3 of the cases in combination with meth while alcohol was rarely detected. The report suggests that users have an increased willingness to take risks and exhibit poor judgment; withdrawal symptoms included depression and fatigue. The underlying conclusion was that meth usage leads to many instances of unsafe vehicle operation.
National Highway Transportation Safety (NHTSA) Report
In another study conducted by the NHTSA found similar results. Specifically, NHTSA’s report found meth users have impaired abilities for operating a vehicle and are more likely to take risks. Some of the results showed drivers traveling at excessive speeds, inattentiveness, and failures to stop. Blood concentration level of the drug was from <0.05 to 2.36 mg/L. Other behaviors attributed to meth included:
- Moving awkwardly
- Perceived disorientation
- Agitation & restlessness
- Overactive reflexes
- General recklessness
Drugged Driving Enforcement
With many states such as Colorado and Washington now legalizing marijuana, significant research and testing is underway to better detect drug impairment among drivers. The San Diego Police Department is one of the first to employ the Dräger DrugTest 5000 machines which allows for a simple mouth swab test capable of detecting marijuana, cocaine, opiates, methamphetamine, and others. This swab test, although less invasive then blood testing, is not yet capable of generating a measurement of the amount of a drug in the system. Colorado has been actively training members of law enforcement to be Drug Recognition Experts (DREs). These DREs are capable of better determining if a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol in roadside testing. Law enforcement is hoping that new technology will emerge that can measure the level of a drug in the driver’s system on-site, as drawing blood on the scene is not a feasible option.
Usage: Other Associated Problems
Meth users experience potentially serious problems which extend beyond the operation of vehicles. Users may experience an overdose which may be from a stroke, heart attack, or organ failure—which can be fatal. Those who are close to users, such as friends and relatives, may be negatively impacted. When the user progresses to where they are addicted to the drug, they tend to lose focus on the existence of real problems in their lives, instead preoccupied with using the drug. The effect on the brain is pleasurable—which is actually the result of the toxic (poison) in the body. Recreational users are drawn to the drug by experiencing alertness and feelings of euphoria. The blood pressure of the user has a tendency to significantly increase and studies have also suggested that users show signs of psychosis. Prolonged exposure to the chemicals in meth begins to have adverse effects on overall health.
If you or someone you know experiments or abuses meth, get help. There’s a lot more at risk than just your life, but the lives of those around you.