Drug Impaired Driving Crashes in Indiana
Have you been the victim of a motor vehicle crash where the other driver was DUID, meaning, driving under the influence of drugs?
It’s a growing problem. According to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, positive testing for marijuana or other illegal drugs rose from 12.4 percent in 2007 to 15.1 percent in 2013 and 2014. And the problem doesn’t stop with illegal drugs; prescription medications now cause a significant number of accidents.
Of those who died in accidents during 2013, 38 percent had detectable levels in their bodies of legal or illegal drugs that could impair them. This percentage number is almost the same as found in those who tested positive for alcohol. The most commonly-detected drugs were marijuana (34.7 percent) and amphetamines (9.7 percent). Note that the amphetamines class includes prescription drugs such as ADHD medications and over-the-counter drugs such as nasal decongestants.
Still, DUI (driving under the influence—of alcohol) and DUID have some notable differences. Alcohol leaves the body rapidly, so a blood alcohol content (BAC) test is generally a reliable way to determine intoxication. But with some drugs, notably marijuana, the psychoactive component, or what is known as the metabolite, can linger for weeks in a person’s urine or bloodstream. That means a person can test positive for marijuana and yet be completely sober behind the wheel, because we don’t have a test for marijuana and certain other drugs that is conclusive the way the BAC one is for alcohol. Prescription drug levels, and their effects on a person, can be equally hard to pin down and make prosecution difficult at times.
What Kinds of Drugs Put a Person at Risk for DUID Driving?
It is important to understand that the problem of DUID is not limited to illegal drugs, or to medical marijuana, which is legal in our neighboring state of Illinois. Indeed, over-the-counter drugs and legally-prescribed drugs play a significant role when it comes to DUID. Because the drugs are commonplace, drivers often consider them innocuous and think nothing of driving with such drugs in their system. Yet prescription drugs are a bigger problem than they used to be. One study has shown that legally-prescribed substances accounted for the largest proportion of drugs used by drivers in fatal car accidents during 2010: 46.5 percent. In general, the increase in fatal crashes involving drivers who are legally drugged has been rising since the mid-2000s.
These three classes of drugs could mean you are driving DUID:
- Over-the-counter drugs such as antihistamines (Benadryl), or cold and flu medications that are sleep-inducing or otherwise cause mental confusion.
- Prescription medications that include anti-anxiety drugs (Valium, Ativan, Xanax), certain antidepressants (Desyrel), pain medications (hydrocodone, Oxycontin), and insomnia medications (Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata, Restoril). Many of these drugs linger in the body long after you take them.
- Illegal drugs such as heroin, morphine, cocaine, LSD, MDMA (Ecstasy), methamphetamines, and marijuana, which is illegal in Indiana.
All of these drugs can affect a person’s driving and mean that the chances of an accident are higher than normal. An additional wrinkle can develop when people are taking drugs that are perfectly legal, but that cause problems when taken together. As we age, the dangers of driving after combining legally-prescribed medications can increase, simply because the older we get, the more likely we are to need prescription medication. Nearly 40 percent of people 65 and over take five or more medications on a regular basis. That leaves room for a lot of problematic drug interactions.
Indiana’s Drugged Driving Laws
When it comes to drugged driving, Indiana has what is called a per se policy, also known as zero tolerance. You can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor if you have a substance’s metabolite in your system, regardless of your current sobriety. It also means that you can be arrested if a police officer has a reasonable suspicion that you have an illegal controlled substance in your body while you are driving, regardless of how small the amount might be. The demonstration of actual impairment while you are behind the wheel of your car is not required for the officer to arrest you, only his or her reasonable suspicion.
Anyone arrested for a suspected DUID, according to the law, gives his or her implied consent to blood and urine testing. If you refuse to be tested, this fact can be used against you in court as evidence of alleged drugged driving.
Driving under the influence of drugs, whether legal or illegal, is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. Using sedatives or anti-anxiety medications can cause dizziness or sleepiness. Using methamphetamines and cocaine can make a driver aggressive and reckless. Drugs that make you high, or that have certain side effects, or that linger in the body and cloud your mind, can do the following:
- Wreck your depth perception
- Delay your reaction time
- Decrease motor coordination
- Affect your ability to think clearly in general.
At Stephenson Rife, just like the state of Indiana, we have a zero tolerance for those who drive under the influence of drugs.