Last year 20.5 million people aged 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). That same survey revealed that 12.6 million drove under the influence of illicit drugs.
Use of psychoactive drugs have similar, perhaps even worse, effects than driving after drinking alcohol. Drugged driving places the driver, passengers and other drivers and pedestrians at risk for death or serious injury.
“Impaired driving is impaired driving, no matter what the driver has taken or consumed. Most people won’t realize or they underestimate the extent of which the drugs will impair their ability to drive," Brad Parker says. "Whether it’s illegal drugs, pain killers, muscle relaxants or alcohol, drivers who are negligent and get behind the wheel impaired should be arrested and charged with DUI.”
How Different Drugs Affect Driving
The effects of specific drugs on driving skills differ depending on how they affect the brain. Here are the various ways that many popular legal or illegal drugs can interfere with a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle:
Marijuana is the leading drug, often combined with alcohol, used by drivers who get charged with DUID offenses. The THC found in marijuana slows down reaction times, causes drowsiness and affects psychomotor skills and cognitive functions critical to driving including vigilance, time and distance perception, reaction time, divided attention, lane tracking, coordination and balance.
Prescription and illegally obtained opioids and opiates can cause drowsiness and impair a driver’s memory and cognitive skills.
Methamphetamine and Cocaine
These drugs in particular can cause drivers to engage in aggressive and reckless behaviors on the road.
Oftentimes sedatives such as benzodiazepine or barbiturates are prescribed by doctors for depression or as a sleep aid. These drugs cause drowsiness and dizziness, which can lead to falling asleep while driving.
Some drivers may take over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for colds or allergies without considering that they can interfere with their ability to drive. OTC medications can cause side effects, including drowsiness, nausea and blurred vision — all of which can put everyone on the road at risk.
Alcohol reduces coordination, concentration, ability to track moving objects and reduces responsiveness to emergency driving situations as well.
Difficulties Detecting Drugged Driving
Unlike drunk drivers, police and legal professionals have a more difficult time detecting – and prosecuting – drivers that are under the influence of illegal drugs.
Brad says, “Alcohol leaves an odor, which many times make it easy to detect. You can also discover if someone has consumed alcohol with a simple breathalyzer test. In instances where a driver is under the influence of drugs, you have to get a blood draw.”
Other complications with detecting drugs in a driver’s system include:
- An adequate roadside test for drug levels in the body doesn't yet exist.
- Police won't usually test for drugs if drivers have reached an illegal blood alcohol level because there's already enough evidence for a DUI charge.
- Many drivers who cause crashes are found to have both drugs and alcohol or more than one drug in their system, making it hard to know which substance had the greatest effect in the cause of the accident.
- Several drugs can stay in your system for days or weeks after use, making it difficult to determine when the drug was used, and therefore, how and if it impaired driving.
Have You Been Injured In A Texas Area Car Accident?
If you've been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Bedford, Texas office directly at 817.440.3888 to schedule your free consultation. We help car accident victims throughout Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington as well as all areas of Texas.
At Parker Law Firm, our experienced personal injury lawyers believe people matter. We are committed to our clients, not case numbers, and we believe in the power of the civil justice system. With years spent both representing accident victims and participating in the state legislative process, our founder, Brad Parker, has developed a deep understanding of the law and gained unique experience that helps him get results for his clients.