A rising concern in America is drugged driving, which involves persons using various pharmaceutical drugs and recreational drugs including alcohol while at the wheel of a vehicle.
Keeping in mind that alcohol is a drug, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) campaigns against all types of drug use by drivers, noting that impairment from any drug — legal or illegal — can adversely affect a driver’s reaction time, judgment and coordination.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cites a 2014 Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by drivers showing alcohol had declined by 30% but marijuana and other illegal drugs had increased since 2007. The survey found that over 20% of drivers tested had at least one drug in their system which could impact safety.
In a 2007 study, 16.3% of drivers on weekend nights had drugs in their system. In 2014, that had risen to 20%.
The study also found that drivers with over the 0.08 percent legal limit of alcohol in their system had four times more risk of crashing than sober drivers.
MADD says about 4,000 drivers with proven drugs in their systems are killed every year. That total doesn’t include drugged drivers who weren’t tested or non-driving persons killed by drugged drivers. Also, the NHTSA says drugs other than alcohol — such as cocaine and marijuana — were involved in around 18% of driver deaths among the 63% of drivers who were tested in 2009.
The most common illegal drug (in some states) detected in impaired drivers is marijuana. It is followed by cocaine, opiates and amphetamines, as well as such legal prescription drugs as Soma, Xanax, sleeping pills, oxycontin and hydrocodone.
Research also shows that impairment rises significantly when alcohol is combined with other drugs.
Though Texas has drunk driving laws, it doesn’t have “drugged driving” laws. Yet such offenses are addressed by Texas’ driving while intoxicated (DWI) statute.
Texas law holds intoxication to mean not just a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher but also “loss of the normal use of a person’s mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances or any other substance into the body.”
Any offense for impaired driving — whether due to alcohol, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines or illegal substances — has the same penalties under Texas’ DWI law.
The penalties for first-time adult drugged driving offenders can include:
• Class B misdemeanor charge
• Jail sentence of 3 to 180 days
• Fines up to $2,000
• Suspension of drivers license for as long as two years
• Required completion of an educational driving course
Offenders also may have to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle to prevent drunk driving.
Though drugged driving can be harder to detect than drunk driving, Texas law officers are trained to spot indications of drug use by drivers. Then they can arrest a driver for DWI and take a blood or breath test to detect a drug.
If the driver refuses to be tested, he or she can have their driver’s license suspended for at least six months. Or the officer can get a search warrant for the suspect’s blood, which the driver cannot refuse.
Jim Adler & Associates supports safe driving and urges all drivers to avoid using any types of drugs before starting a car and to be wary of other drivers whose drug use may threaten them.
If someone in your family was harmed by a drunk driver or drugged driver, notify our law firm. We’ll provide you a free legal evaluation of your case, and then you can decide if you want to seek payments for your losses.