When most people hear the phrase “driving under the influence” (DUI), they think of alcohol, and for good reason. A growing concern, however, is the number of drivers who operate a vehicle after taking some kind of drug. Drugs of all stripes, legal or illegal, prescription or over-the-counter, can cause impairment, making it a risk to get behind the wheel.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), among those drivers who were tested (approximately 63 percent of all drivers dying in car accidents), almost one-third of them tested positive for the presence of drugs in their system, which calculates to approximately 18 percent of all drivers killed in vehicle accidents. The NHTSA also reports a five percent increase in the number of drivers who are found with drugs in their system from 2005 to 2009.
There was a wide range of drugs found in deceased drivers, including:
Depressants like Xanax, Valium or painkillers
Stimulants like heroin, cocaine or methamphetamines
Cannabinoids (marijuana or marijuana by-products)
It should be noted that the NHTSA numbers do not indicate the number of drivers that had a high enough level of drug in their system to reach the point of impairment. The president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Jim Lavine, also notes that drug-test results do not indicate when the drug was ingested. Traces of certain drugs can stay in one’s system for days or even weeks.
The numbers released by the NHTSA show a high amount of “drug use” in America. Although many of the drugs that appear in the results are legal, until we know more about the impairing effects of the substances, drivers may unwittingly be putting themselves and others at risk. Unless you are certain of how it will affect you, think twice before getting behind the wheel after taking cough medicine or a prescription drug for what ails you.
If you have been involved in a car accident with a driver impaired by a drug, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. An attorney can protect your rights and help you recover compensation for your injuries.