While most people are aware of the effects of alcohol on driving and public safety, drugged driving attracts less attention. Drunk driving is increasingly seen as socially unacceptable and is dropping partly as a result, but there is no comparable stigma against drugged driving. Drugged driving is believed to be increasing.
Drugged driving is a threat on the nationʹs roads. Of fatally injured drivers given a test, 43% had drugs in their system, a higher rate than tested drivers who had alcohol in their system.
Twenty-two percent of all tested drivers have drugs in their system on the weekends or at night.
Drugs than can impair driving
Accidents involving driving while under the influence of drugs contain complicated issues for several reasons.
The first is the categories of drugs that may impair driving. Drivers can take prescribed drugs that are perfectly legal, but still be impaired while driving and at risk to themselves and others.
Drivers can use over-the-counter medications that are perfectly legal and still be impaired while driving.
In addition, of course, there are the categories of illegal drugs, such as narcotics, stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens. Some drugs, like marijuana, are legal in some states and illegal in others, or legal under circumstances such as a medical prescription, and illegal under other circumstances.
Finally, substances such as paint or glue, if inhaled, can cause a drug-like reaction but are not technically drugs. They can cause driver impairment.
The second is the sheer number of drugs. It is estimated that there are 430 drugs or metabolites of drugs maintained in the national highway safety fatality database that can cause impairment.
Third, while laws generally separate alcohol and drugs in charging drivers with impairment, many national organizations charged with highway safety classify drugs as any substance that can impair driving. Under this definition, alcohol is a drug.
Under New York state law, a charge can be brought against a driver impaired by drugs, a driver impaired by alcohol, both drugs and alcohol, or multiple drugs. The charges are:
- Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
- Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI/Alcohol)
- Driving While Ability Impaired by a Single Drug other than Alcohol (DWAI/Drug)
- Driving While Ability Impaired by a Combined Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (DWAI/Combination)
Increase in marijuana-related crashes?
Marijuana use is now legal in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Last month, West Virginia became the latest state to approve medical marijuana use, under a law that goes into effect in 2019.
While there are no conclusive data yet, it is possible that the rise in legalization and decriminalization may lead to more widespread usage, and therefore more accidents.
In one study of fatally injured drivers, 57% were tested for drugs. Of that 57% sector, more than 35% had marijuana in their system. Thirty-four percent had another drug in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System list, a national database, in their system.
If you need the advice of an attorney
Edelman, Krasin & Jaye are veteran attorneys experienced in both laws against driving while impaired by drugs and driving while impaired with alcohol. Because drugged driving situations are complicated, it is best to consult a lawyer if you or a loved one believe it is an issue in your accident. We will fight for a fair and just settlement.
An initial legal consultation is complimentary. We will give you expert advice about your case and what the next steps could be. Call today for a free consultation with a seasoned New York City and Long Island car accident lawyer today.
Additional “drug impaired driving” resources:
- GHSA, Drug Impaired Driving: A Guide for States, http://www.ghsa.org/sites/default/files/2017-04/GHSA_DruggedDriving2017_FINAL.pdf
- GHSA, Drug-Impaired Driving: A Guide for States, 2017 Update, http://www.ghsa.org/resources/drugged-driving-2017
- DMV, https://dmv.ny.gov/tickets/penalties-alcohol-or-drug-related-violations