It is a common misconception that DUI charges are restricted to alcohol or recreational drug consumption, but it’s important for drivers to know that operating a vehicle after taking certain prescriptions can also cause a driver to get a DUI. These medications can impair a driver’s cognitive function, as well as his or her motor skills and reaction time.
Research has shown a marked increase in the presence of drugs in accident victims’ bloodstreams. In 2010, a study was conducted on drivers in serious accidents. The results showed that one in five drivers were found to have more than one type of drug in their bloodstream at the time of the accident. A study done in 1993 showed that only one in eight drivers were found to have multiple drugs in their system. Of drivers tested on weekend nights, 16% showed signs of over-the-counter, prescription, or illegal drugs in their system.
A DUI Is Not Restricted to Alcohol Consumption
A per se DUI is defined by the concentration of a substance in the driver’s blood. These substances can include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines. When the driver has a high concentration of any of these substances over the legal limit, he or she can be charged with a DUI based on the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) without officers having to prove impairment.
What Is Considered Impairment?
Impairment is defined as when a person’s facilities are weakened enough that they can not judge distance and have trouble seeing, hearing, walking, and talking. This is why it is important for drivers to read all medication labels and listen to any warnings that state not to operate heavy machinery. By following the warning labels and understanding that if a driver feels different due to a prescription then the driver will drive differently, a DWI crash can be avoided. An impairment DUI does not just rely on the blood concentration but also includes a field sobriety test and other signs which indicate the driver has an altered state of mind. It is also important for drivers to know that each state has its own definition of what degree of impairment will lead to charges.
What Are The Signs Of Impairment?
There are some basic criteria for proving that a person is impaired, and these are usually identified during the field sobriety test that is conducted when the police officer pulls the driver over. Some of these signs include:
- Inability to Focus
- Not able to recall details
- Slurred speech, or speech that is slowed
- Erratic driving
- Red or glazed eyes
- Other unusual behavior
The field sobriety test is designed to try to catch drivers who are unable to multitask both physically and mentally, which is important for safe driving. With a field sobriety test, a BAC is usually measured, although there is no BAC test that applies to prescriptions as those are legal substances prescribed by a doctor.
What Type Of Prescriptions May Cause Impairment?
Psychotropic prescriptions are one of the most commonly misused prescriptions. Some of these prescriptions treat anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and sleep disorders. Psychotropic drugs affect mood, behavior, thoughts, and perception. These types of drugs work by changing levels of brain chemistry to help improve symptoms of the condition for which they were prescribed. Opioids and stimulants are some other common prescriptions that are misused for recreational purposes. Opioids are generally prescribed to treat pain, and ADHD medicine is the stimulant prescription most commonly identified.
Driving Without Proper Attention Can Cost More Than Expected
In many states, the driver can also be charged with a DUI, or DWI even when the car is not in motion but the driver is in the driver’s seat. The vehicle does not have to be a car, as some drivers have also been charged while operating a watercraft, mopeds, a motorized scooter, a lawnmower, or a bicycle. Accidents can happen even when a driver is surrounded by the best conditions on the road, so safe use of prescription medications is vital. Car crash injuries are best avoided by not driving under the influence at all. These injuries can be lifelong and severe. Injuries from car crashes often lead to costly medical treatments for new conditions and the exacerbation of previous conditions.