Though everyone knows about the danger and irresponsibility of getting behind the wheel after drinking, few people talk about the similar risks associated with drugged driving. It’s about time that changes given the increasing occurrence of medication-related wrecks on Pennsylvania roadways.
PennDOT, Pennsylvania State and local police have all announced that they are part of a national effort to target drivers who are operating vehicles under the influence of drugs. The campaign has been dubbed “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and is intended to raise awareness of the dangers of impaired driving. PennDOT’s spokeswoman Erin Waters said that while the number of alcohol-related crashes has been down the last few years, instances of drugged driving continue to increase.
This includes not only illegal drugs, but also increasingly, prescription medications. One recent example includes Kerry Kennedy, who was charged with driving under the influence after Ambien was found in her system following a crash into a tractor-trailer.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the problem of impaired driving is not limited to alcohol. Driving under the influence of prescription drugs raises many of the same concerns given that powerful medication can act on the brain to impair a person’s motor skills, reaction time and judgment. Drugged driving is a public health concern because it puts not only the driver at risk, but also passengers and others who share the road.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2007 National Roadside Survey, more than 16% of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter medications while more than 11% tested positive for illicit drugs. Another NHTSA study found that in 2009, among fatally injured drivers, 18% tested positive for at least one, a number that marked a 13% increase from 2005. These results indicate that not enough has been done to educate the public about the true danger of driving under the influence of medication.
Despite the information available regarding the danger of drugged driving, the nation’s laws have yet to reflect the severity of the crime. Though alcohol detection is relatively easy, the presence of illicit drugs is more difficult to measure and there is no agreed upon impairment limit. Many states, including Pennsylvania, don’t list specific requirements for what measurements of substances amount to intoxicated driving the way that 0.08% blood alcohol concentration is specified for alcohol-related arrests. Instead, Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes § 75-380275 vaguely says that a person is guilty of DUI if he or she drives under the influence of a drug or combination of drugs to a degree which impairs his or her ability to safely drive.
As Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys who routinely see the damage that can result from such irresponsible behavior, it’s tragic to see increasingly frequent instances of yet another category of impaired driving in the state. Sadly, we too often see the life changing results that occur when people make the deadly decision to drive while impaired. If you or someone you know have been injured and you would like to discuss your case with an attorney, please contact one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation at (267) 809-8250.
Source: “Increased Effort To Nab Drivers Under Influence Of Drugs And Alcohol,” by, published at Philadelphia.CBSLocal.com.