According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
“Drugged driving is driving a vehicle while impaired due to the intoxicating effects of recent drug use.” In this definition, ‘drug use’ includes both legal and illegal substances. Drugged driving includes drunk driving and driving under the influence of both prescription drugs, like painkillers and sleeping pills; and illicit drugs, like marijuana, crack, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, and methamphetamine (meth).
Drug-impaired driving puts drivers, passengers, and everyone who uses the road at risk.
How Is Drugged Driving Different Than Drunk Driving?
By definition, drunk driving is drugged driving. Nevertheless, drunk driving is easier to measure than other types of drugged driving because experts have not yet developed a good roadside test for other kinds of drugs and their levels in the body.
Authorities can detect a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) with a breathalyzer test and link crashes directly to alcohol use, but other drugs stay in the body for longer, making it difficult to determine when the drug was used and how it impaired driving.
Often, drivers who cause crashes or get caught driving drunk are under the influence of more than one drug. Police may not drug test a driver with an illegal BAC because they already have enough evidence for a DUI charge. Even when drivers test positive for 2 or more drugs, it can be difficult to know which substance had a greater effect.
Which Drug or Drugs Affect Driving?
All drugs that affect your body and mind can affect driving. The effect a drug has on your driving skills will depend on how it affects your brain. For example:
- Marijuana can slow your reaction time and impair your judgment
- Meth or cocaine can make you more aggressive and reckless
- Opioids can make you drowsy and impair your memory and thinking skills, and
- Sedatives (benzos and barbiturates) can make you dizzy and drowsy.
Combining 2 or more drugs can enhance the effect of each drug, leading to an even stronger effect on your driving capabilities.
Even if you have a prescription, you should not drive after taking drugs that make you drowsy or relaxed, and you should never get behind the wheel if you don’t know how a new prescription will affect you. You should even be careful with certain over-the-counter medicines. Motion sickness and allergy medications, for instance, can make you drowsy and interfere with your driving ability. Keep an eye out for warning labels that caution drowsiness or dizziness and advise against driving or “operating heavy machinery.”
Does Marijuana Impair Driving the Way Alcohol Does?
Yes. After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often involved in car accidents. Many drivers believe that marijuana cannot impair their driving ability, but research shows the opposite to be true. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains:
“Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.”
Like alcohol use, marijuana use increases the risk of both fatal and nonfatal car accidents. Marijuana is especially dangerous when combined with alcohol or other drugs.
How to Keep Yourself and Others Safe
For many people, the safest option is avoiding drug use altogether. In addition to the risk of drugged driving, many substances also have addictive qualities and can lead to serious mental and behavioral health problems. Many drugs are also against the law, so using them can lead to criminal charges.
If you must go to a party where drugs and alcohol are present, get a ride to and from the event. Offer to stay sober and be the designated driver and make sure the designated driver collects the car keys of everyone who plans to drink or use drugs. Before you go to the event, talk to your friends about the risks of drug use and drugged driving and make a plan to stay safe.
If you are worried about other drivers drinking or using drugs before driving, know that the best way to keep yourself safe is to wear a seatbelt. Buckle up and drive defensively, and if you see suspicious behavior on the road, report it to local law enforcement.
Remember that no matter what you do, another driver may choose to drive after drinking or consuming drugs, and you may not be able to avoid an accident they cause. When someone harms you or your loved ones, you should speak to an attorney to help protect your legal rights and secure your future.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a drunk or drugged driver, please call Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. at (603) 288-1403 or contact us online to discuss the next steps during a free consultation.
With over 100 years of combined experience, we are ready to fight for you and your family.