Drug-impaired driving is coming to the forefront of law enforcement efforts to reduce the number of accidents, injuries, and deaths that occur as a result of driving under the influence. The identification of persons who are operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol is much simpler to test for and prove in a court of law than the identification of a person driving under the influence of drugs. Drugs impaired driving is defined as the use of over the counter medications, prescription drugs, and illegal substances that may impair a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
There is currently no national legal standard that determines the point at which a person is committing the crime of drug-impaired driving. Many states have no effective means to test people for drug-impaired driving in the field and no specified level of drug intoxication which is legally defined as drug-impaired driving. Despite these shortcomings, all states make it a crime to commit drug impaired driving. Eleven states have zero-tolerance laws which make it a crime to commit drug-impaired driving under the influence of any amount of drugs.
It is difficult for government experts to predict the prevalence of drug impaired driving offenses that occur on our nation’s roadways because of the difficulty in identifying and prosecuting drug impaired driving offenders. In some studies, experts have found that of those persons arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, eighteen percent had also tested positive for drugs at the time of their arrest.
Drug impaired driving has become a considerable concern for law enforcement officials because of the difficulty in prosecuting these cases and the serious threat that drug-impaired driving poses to public safety. Drugs- whether they are over the counter, prescription or illegal drugs- have the potential to severely impair one’s ability to drive in many ways. Drug impaired driving can cause slow or delayed reaction time, alteration in-depth perception, reduction in peripheral vision, confusion, inattention, lack of awareness, drowsiness, or hyperactivity; all of which cause a major threat to safety on the road.
In response to the need for a systematic and effective way to identify persons who commit drug impaired driving, the Los Angeles Police Department established a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) training program in the 1970s. Since then the program has grown nationwide and now administers national standards for the training and certification of DREs. As of January 2005, only three percent of all law enforcement officers have completed the DRE training program in the United States. Federal legislators are currently reviewing bills that would create stricter laws regarding drug impaired driving.
When a person is charged with drug impaired driving they may be found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony DUI (driving under the influence) crime.
If you would like to learn more about your legal rights and options in a drug impaired driving case, you may wish to contact a qualified and experienced attorney.