Driving while intoxicated has been a problem for decades, with many public health and legal ramifications for those who get behind the wheel after drinking. The newest trend in driving while intoxicated, however, has nothing to do with drinking. A mixture of illegal drugs and prescription drugs are the greatest challenge for law enforcement. Knowing how to test for, spot someone who is high on drugs, or being able to prove it in court is very complex.
It isn’t just those who are taking drugs and driving erratically that are endangering the public. A recent incident in Virginia took it to a whole new level. Overdosing while driving is not only a thing, it is quickly becoming an epidemic and putting motorists’ lives in jeopardy — not just in Virginia but across the nation.
Opioid use in the United States has grown to massive proportions; not only is it destroying families, but it is also having an impact on car accidents on everything from major highways to rural town roads. Currently, there are no states that aren’t dealing with increasing drug addiction rates and the effects of not just illegal drugs — like marijuana and heroin — but also inappropriate usage of prescription drugs.
National statistics released in 2014 revealed that as many as two million people suffer from addiction to painkillers, and an additional 600,000 are addicted to heroin. The crossover from prescription drugs to heroin is an alarming trend that has many in public policy circles concerned. For the first time in history, drug overdosing has surpassed car accidents as being responsible for deaths.
What is even more shocking is the number of those who are overdosing while they are behind the wheel of a car. There is an increase in first responders who are meeting victims at a crash scene and administering a drug called naloxone, which is an overdose drug. There is an average of as many as four overdoses in car accidents daily per state.
Although the numbers are underestimated and probably not reported as much as it occurs, many law enforcement and EMT officials are seeing a rash of those who are overdosing behind the wheel. They aren’t only a danger because they are intoxicated when they overdose and pass out; it is also like letting a sleeping driver behind the wheel of an automobile. That is about as dangerous as it gets. Like a bullet without anyone manning it, overdosing while driving is a no-win situation for the driver and those who are in the way.
In Virginia Beach, a study was done by the National Highway Safety Administration where they pulled over 3,000 motorists. They found that one in four of those who were pulled over were intoxicated by at least one substance that affected their ability to drive. That’s a staggering number, and it’s likely no different from what they would find in any other small town in the US.
Car collisions are frequently caused by drivers intoxicated either by alcohol or drugs of some type. With the increasing amount of opioid drug use, there is no telling how many people are under the influence — and since the drugs were prescribed, they may have no idea that their driving is even impaired. According to an accident lawyer in Santa Ana, at the scene of a crash, opioids are not typically tested for unless there is reason to suspect they’re involved. If someone is taking medications, whether they are prescribed or not, it is considered driving while intoxicated if they cause an accident.
A personal injury lawyer who is involved in a car accident case will usually subpoena the hospital records when suing to find if there were any drugs in the driver’s systems which could have impaired their driving. Since it is a crime to be intoxicated while behind the wheel, it makes no difference why someone is taking drugs — it is illegal, period.
That is why it is important for anyone who is taking opioids or other painkillers to understand their liability when getting in the car. It isn’t just about people overdosing or doing illegal drugs; the legal ones can be just as dangerous and can kill just as many motorists. Those who are under the influence of drugs shouldn’t ever get behind the wheel, period. If they choose to, they run the risk of jail time if something happens, regardless of whether the drugs are lawfully prescribed. The new trend of overdosing and driving is a disturbing and horrific trend in America, and likely will be just as hard to tackle as opioid use itself.