It’s no secret that many traffic accidents are caused by impaired drivers. A subset of this group includes individuals who cause injury and death because they are intoxicated by alcohol, prescription medicine and illegal drugs (also referred to as controlled dangerous substances or CDS). People who are not fully in control of their faculties due to taking drugs or consuming alcohol can be the source of serious traffic collisions involving passenger cars, motorcycles and commercial trucks.
As a Maryland automobile accident attorney, I know the seriousness of injuries sustained by occupants of motor vehicles caught up in these kinds of impaired driving crashes or DUI-related accidents. What may be disconcerting to many people out there is that prosecuting these DUI offenders is not as simple as it may seem.
This is a shame, because thousands of people are killed or injured every year by the thoughtlessness of these individuals. From simple cuts and bruises to broken bones and permanent disability — even death — there is too much suffering imposed on so many by so few who lack a social conscience. Yet recourse against these irresponsible few is difficult according to experts.
A recent article points out the there is a delicate balance between individuals who have a legitimate need for prescription medication and the public good. More and more it is becoming common for drivers to be charged with driving under the influence of drugs following a car or commercial truck accident. According to law enforcement authorities, although drunk driving deaths have reportedly been dropping, there has been an increase in accidents caused by drivers impaired due to prescription painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, sleep aids and other powerful drugs.
The situation has become increasingly worrisome for police officials nationwide because, unlike the effects of beer, wine and hard liquor, there is no agreement on what level of drugs in the blood driving impairment occurs.
Of course, the behavioral effects of legally prescribed drugs varies from one person to the next. Some drugs, such as anti-anxiety medications, can reduce driver’s level of alertness and reduce reaction time. Stimulants, on the other hand, can promote risk-taking and impair a person’s ability to judge distance. Then there is the issue of mixing prescription medication, taking these legal drugs with alcohol or even illicit drugs. All of which can make worsen a driver’s level of impairment, causing a sharp increase in the chances that a driver will cause a traffic accident.
According to news articles, some states have made it illegal to drive with any detectable level of prohibited drugs in the bloodstream. But setting any kind of limit for prescription medications is much more complicated, especially because of the complex interaction of drug chemistry on the human body. The effects are so much more difficult to predict than that of alcohol.
To complicate matter even more, determining whether a driver ingested medication just before hitting the road can be rather tricky since some drugs tend to linger in the body for days or even weeks.
On the matter of prosecution of individuals who cause an accident while impaired due to prescription medication, this is still a delicate area. Persuading a jury to convict someone because they drove while impaired due to prescription drugs is challenging except in the most egregious cases, according to experts. This is because many people in the jury will likely be taking prescription drugs themselves.
Whether it’s a cholesterol-reducing medication or allergy pills, a juror may not act in a plaintiff’s best interest because they themselves may be thinking, “I don’t want my medication to become illegal to drive under and then limit my mobility.”
Drivers impaired by prescription drugs are hard to convict, Telegram.com, July 24, 2010