Drugged driving involves the use of illegal (or illicit) and legal (prescription or over-the-counter) drugs. It presents a serious threat to the safety of Chicago motorists. Driving under the influence of any drug that acts on the brain could impair one’s motor skills, reaction time and judgment, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says. Drugged driving puts not only the driver at risk but also passengers, pedestrians and others who share the road.
The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) said an estimated 10.5 million people reported driving under the influence of illegal drugs during the year prior to the survey. The Illinois State Police say that each year in Illinois, hundreds of people die needlessly as the result of drinking or drugged driving. Hundreds more in our state are seriously injured or permanently disabled. Millions of dollars in property damage occur.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found in a 2009 study that, among fatally injured drivers, 18 percent tested positive for at least one drug (e.g., illicit, prescription, or over-the-counter). That marked an increase from 13 percent in 2005. The NHTSA’s 2007 National Roadside Survey found that more than 16 percent of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription or over-the-counter medications. More than 11 percent tested positive for illicit drugs.
Drugs Impair a Driver’s Ability to Operate a Vehicle
The NIDA says that marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug detected in impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers and motor vehicle crash victims. Other drugs detected in the systems of drugged drivers include benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates and amphetamines.
THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, adversely affects areas of the brain that control the body’s movements, balance, coordination, memory and judgment and sensations. Marijuana can negatively affect a driver’s attentiveness, perception of time and speed and ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences, the NIDA says.
Many medications can impair driving ability because of how they act on systems in the brain. Anti-anxiety medications (e.g., Xanax, Paxil, Buspar, et al.) might decrease a driver’s alertness and slow reaction time. Stimulants prescribed for neurological disorders like ADHD, asthma or obesity may make a driver overly aggressive.
In fact, the NIDA points out, many prescriptions warn the drug’s user not to operate machinery – including motor vehicles – for a specified period of time after taking a dosage.
The Challenge of Discovering Drugged Driving
There is no standard measurement for drugged driving, such as the blood-alcohol content (BAC) test used to measure impairment in drunk drivers. Yet, studies show that drugs are a factor that can cause impairment even more often than alcohol.
Drugs do not appear in the system the same way alcohol does. Alcohol burns off relatively quickly, but some drugs can remain in the body for days or weeks after the initial ingestion and impairment. So, it is more difficult to get an accurate reading of the amount of drugs in a driver’s system and how they affect his or her motor abilities and/or cognition.
Some states, including Illinois, have adopted “per se” laws. These laws make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle if there is any detectable level of a prohibited drug, or its metabolites, in the driver’s blood.
Still, there is no agreed-upon legal limit to point to as a definitive indicator of whether illicit drugs were the cause of an accident.
Contact Our Drugged Driving Accident Lawyers
If you were injured in an accident caused by someone else, you deserve compensation. Our drugged driving accident attorneys will investigate your accident and try to determine if drugs played a role in causing the accident. We will pursue compensation on your behalf. Contact us today for a free consultation. Offices in Chicago and Waukegan.