Most people are aware of the dangers associated with driving drunk, but driving drugged is emerging as a serious problem on the rise. Although it may not be as obvious as being drunk after an accident, driving under the influence of illegal drugs, prescription medications, and even some over-the-counter medications can also contribute to impaired driving.
Considered “drugged driving” when any of these substances are purposely or accidentally combined with alcohol, the situation is known as “poly-abuse”, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Drunk driving continues to be the main threat on U.S. roadways, but poly-abuse and drugged driving are also increasing. Regardless, whether you’re proven drunk or drugged, the consequences are the same – a DUI and higher car insurance rates.
Keep in mind that common over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications, although they are perfectly legal substances, can have dangerous effects on your driving, impairing your judgment. Many over-the-counter medications can cause drowsiness or a decreased reaction time – especially when combined with other medications – and put you in the spotlight of driving drugged.
A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2009 found that 18 percent of U.S. drivers killed in fatal car accidents, were tested to have had drugs in their systems. Furthermore, a 2007 study showed that 16 percent of nighttime drivers who were tested had various drugs in their systems. Among them were marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines.
One of the difficult challenges facing law enforcement in their effort to curb drugged driving is that field-testing methods and equipment are not as advanced as those used for drunk driving. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association
supports making drugged driving a national priority and wants states to implement strategies in detection, enforcement and prosecution. A possible saliva test performed on drivers suspected of driving drugged by arresting officers that could provide results on the spot, has been suggested. Unfortunately, such testing equipment is not available at the present time.
Only three states, California, Hawaii, and New York, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, currently have laws that separate:
Driving under the influence of alcohol
Driving while impaired by other drugs
Driving while under a combination of alcohol and other drugs
Meanwhile, 17 other states have what’s known as per se (Latin for “by itself”) laws that forbid the presence of any amount of a prohibited substance in a driver’s body. Now that a number of states have legalized medical marijuana and two others – Colorado and Washington – have legalized its use as a recreational drug, its effects on drugged driving have raised additional concern.
As for how individual car insurance companies handle drugged driving versus drunk driving, is unknown. Just keep in mind, if you drive under the influence of any substance…be it alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription meds, or simple over-the-counter allergy or cold medicine, you’ll be considered impaired behind the wheel. Know what you’re doing before you do it. It’s not worth the risk.
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Have you ever been pulled over for drugged driving? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.