In California, three out of ten people who died in an accident on the roadways in 2010 had drugs in their system at the time of the fatal accident. This information, recently released by the California Office of Traffic Safety, has caused law enforcement and the press to suggest that drugged driving may be even more fatal to California residents than drunk driving.
“While law enforcement has long targeted drunk driving, drugged driving has received far less attention over the years,” explained California personal injury lawyer James Ballidis.
Drugged driving involves operating a motor vehicle when impaired by any medication or drug. This includes not just illegal drugs such as marijuana or cocaine, but also legal and prescription drugs. Even certain over-the-counter medications that make you drowsy may seriously impair your ability to drive and may lead to a potentially fatal drugged-driving accident.
Managing the Problem of Drugged Driving
One major problem that exists that may be contributing to the high number of drugged driving deaths is that drugged driving does not get the attention that drunk driving does and that there are no clear intoxication standards for drugged driving. All drivers know that the legal limit for alcohol is a BAC of .08 for adults and most people can use that information to make an informed decision about exactly how much they can drink before they get behind the wheel of a car.
With drugged driving, on the other hand, there is no clear standard. There’s no specific law that specifies how much of any one drug a person may consume prior to taking the wheel of a motor vehicle. Things become even more confusing when the substance is a legal or a prescription drug. As a result, people may not have any barometer for deciding in advance when to arrange a designated driver when they plan to use recreational or other drugs. This means that even people who might never drive drunk might not necessarily be concerned about ingesting prescription drugs prior to driving.
Fighting drugged driving is likely to remain a major challenge unless and until a uniform standard has been devised to determine what the illegal level of impairment is for various drugs. With no impairment level, not only is it impossible for an objective standard to be applied across the state to determine when someone is breaking the law, but it will also be more difficult for drugged-driving cases to be prosecuted in order to punish offenders since there is no clear definition of the crime for a prosecutor to prove.
With the startling figures related to drugged driving in California, it is clear that the legislature needs to act soon to make some type of change. While those who are victims of drugged driving accidents can bring civil lawsuits to get compensation and seek some measure of justice, a uniform standard for drugged driving must be established to allow for the fair and uniform imposition of criminal penalties for the offense.
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