Driving Under the Influence of Drugs – a Hidden Problem
When we think about intoxicated driving, we often think about alcohol. However, driving under the influence of drugs is a cause of many serious and fatal accidents.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 more than 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. It equates to about one percent of the 112 million self-reported instances of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults every year.
However, drugs play a more prominent role in accidents than we may think. The CDC states drugs other than alcohol such as cannabis and cocaine are involved in as many as 18 percent of motor vehicle deaths. They are often used in combination with alcohol.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence states: “The primary concern about drugged driving is clear….it is dangerous. Being under the influence of any drug that acts on the brain and central nervous system impairs a driver’s motor skills, reaction time and judgment.”
The victims of drugged drivers include not only the driver but also passengers and others who share the road and nearby sidewalks.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) National Roadside Survey, more than 16 percent of drivers on the road during the night over the weekend tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs (11 percent tested positive for illegal drugs). In 2009, 18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one drug – either a prescribed or a proscribed drug.
Young people are most likely to be driving under the influence of drugs. The Monitoring the Future Study found that 1 in 12 high school seniors reported driving after smoking marijuana. In 2009, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) reported that 3,952 drivers who were killed in the United States tested positive for drug involvement.
While measuring blood/alcohol content (BAC) has become a precise art, drugged driving laws have not kept up with alcohol-related driving legislation because of the limitations in technology for determining specific levels of impairment based on levels of the drugs in the human system. For drugs, other than alcohol, no such agreed upon standard like the BAC has been reliably demonstrated.
In Virginia Drivers can be arrested for DUI with a blood alcohol concentration of a mere 0.00 percent if law enforcement agencies establish proof that the impairment is caused by illicit drug use.
When it comes to drugs, commercial drivers such as truck and bus drivers, face strict federal rules that makes any use of illicit drugs a violation of the law.
To date, 44 US states and the District of Columbia have implemented drug evaluation and classification programs, designed to train police officers as to become experts at recognizing the signs of illegal drug use.
Driving under the influence of drugs can affect your coordination, your nerves and muscles and lead to problems with steering, braking, accelerating and driving your vehicle.
Marijuana, which is legal in some US states, is the second most commonly used drug associated with drinking and drugged driving after alcohol, it is important to understand why it is particularly dangerous. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence states the THC, the element in marijuana that gives you a high, affects areas of the brain that control body movements, coordination, balance, memory and judgment.
“Evidence from both real and simulated driving studies indicates that marijuana negatively affects a driver’s attentiveness, perception of time and speed, and ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences,” the council states.
It’s important to remember that driving under the influence of drugs is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. If you have been injured by the actions of a drugged or a drunk driver, call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 757.455.0077.