When the term "driving under the influence" is heard, the first thing that usually comes to mind is alcohol intoxication. But alcohol is only one of the countless substances that can impair an individual's ability to drive. Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs, including prescription medications and illegal substances can cause severe consequences.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 10 million Americans drive under the influence of drugs each year, making up 18% of fatally injured drivers. Let's examine the top three consequences that drugged driving can cause.
Simply put, drugged driving puts individuals at higher risk for crashes, often resulting in injuries or fatalities to the occupants of the vehicle or to other individuals involved in the accident. In 2006, approximately 18,000 people died in traffic crashes from driving under the influence, accounting for over 40% of all traffic deaths. Furthermore, drivers can be charged with serious crimes in relation to injuries such as:
● Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter
● Criminal negligence
While speeding is one of the greatest contributing factors to traffic injuries and deaths, another common factor is running red lights which most often impacts pedestrians or drivers and passengers of other vehicles.
2. Criminal Prosecution
Although it is more difficult to prosecute motorists who are charged with driving under the influence of drugs rather than alcohol, there are many states that have "per se" drugged driving laws, making it illegal to operate a vehicle with any detectable amount of drugs in one's system. Various jurisdictions across the country also have what's known as "Drug Recognition Experts" who are specially trained officers who follow specific guidelines in order to determine drug impairment. Depending on the circumstances, DUIs can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies with potential penalties significantly differing, including but not limited to:
● Jail or Prison
● License Suspension or Revocation
3. Civil Lawsuit
Individuals who drive under the influence of drugs face not only criminal penalties, but can be sued in civil court as well. Injuries caused by drugged driving are frequently the subject of civil suits. This entails a separate and distinct process that can be initiated by victims of drugged drivers to recover damages including costs of:
● Medical treatment
● Lost wages
● Damaged property
● Other economic damages
● Money for pain and suffering.
Some states have no-fault laws that require injuries or damages to meet a certain statutory severity while others contain pure negligence laws that enable individuals to file a civil suit against any intoxicated driver for the injuries sustained. Lastly, if an individual is killed due to driving under the influence of drugs, a wrongful death suit can be filed.
Overall, driving under the influence of any substance can have significant consequences that will impact you both in the short term and long term. A criminal conviction from drugged driving can undermine future opportunities such as employment, auto insurance rates, professional relationships, and personal relationships to name a few. Keep these three main consequences in mind when thinking about driving under the influence of drugs.
If you have been charged with a DUI, contact our office to discuss your case with a car accident lawyer Surprise AZ trusts who may be able to reduce or dismiss the charges against you.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Alex & Associates, P.C. for their insight into the consequences of drugged driving.