Drunk driving on our roadways has been a big concern for some time. More and more, we are hearing that motorists are driving while drugged. What is "driving while drugged" anyway? Well, it is pretty much like it sounds. Just as it is illegal for a driver to operate vehicle while impaired by alcohol, it is illegal for a driver to operate a vehicle while impaired by drugs - prescription medication, narcotics, street drugs. Drugged driving is now responsible for just as many car crashes, injuries and deaths as drunk driving.
In 2013, approximately 38% of people who died in car crashes were found to have drugs in their system. Most times, the drug found in the individual's system is marijuana, followed by amphetamines and then pain killers. With each year, we are seeing an increase of drivers operating vehicles while under the effect of prescription medications.
The percentage of fatally-injured drivers testing positive for drugs - 40 percent - is almost the same as those testing positive for alcohol. The most recent roadside survey by the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) found that 22 percent of drivers tested positive for some drug or medication.
Whenever we get our own prescription, we see the warnings on the bottle. We may also receive warnings from our prescribing doctor. Sometimes, those warnings tell us not to drive. Unfortunately, more and more, drivers are not taking heed to that warning not to drive while taking prescription medication. Because of this fact, NHTSA is recommending that the State of Illinois and the State of Missouri take the following actions to protect us:
(1) Planning - assess data regarding the drugged driving crashes, injuries and deaths;
(2) Laws - creating laws addressing the dangers of drugged driving;
(3) Training - the police officers, prosecutors and judges all must be provided training regarding this issue;
(4) Testing - drug testing of drivers must be implemented;
(5) Prosecution - drugged drivers must be prosecuted; and
(6) Track data - the data gathered must be analyzed
Unfortunately, drugged driving is harder to detect than drunk driving. Usually, when a driver is intoxicated, the investigating officer will note signs such as an odor of alcohol, slurring of speech, or the inability to walk a straight line. A person who has consumed drugs or medications prior to driving will not emit an odor and, often, the effect of the drug or medication isn't readily detectable in a short conversation. Nevertheless, the medication or drug can cause the driver to be sleepy or less focused.
If you have been involved in a car crash, you can ask the police officer yourself to check for possible drug involvement. If it is too late to do so, it is important that you retain an accident attorney to help you. Your attorney can request medical records if the other driver went to the hospital after the crash. These records will show drug testing. As always, it is important to be informed so that you can protect yourself. If you have been in an accident, contact one of our qualified attorneys right away at (217) 394-5885.