The Driver Who Hit you Was Taking Medication: Was He Negligent?
Most medications don’t affect one’s ability to drive. But some prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) remedies can impact how safely we drive by influencing reaction times, which are critical when it comes to safe driving. These reactions include:
- Blurred vision
- Slower movement
- Difficulty focusing or paying attention
Medications That Require Caution
Knowing how drugs can affect our reaction times or ability to focus is important. Some medications – alone or in combination with others – can profoundly impact our ability to drive. Some of them include:
- Anti-anxiety prescription drugs
- Certain antidepressants
- Medications that contain codeine
- Cold remedies and allergy relief medications
- Sleeping pills
- Pain relievers
- Diet pills
- “Stay awake” drugs, and stimulants (e.g. caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine).
Why is Drugged Driving Dangerous?
The effects of many of the types of drugs listed above can vary, depending on a person’s body chemistry. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand how specific drug combinations affect driving from person to person. One can feel no affect from a specific combination while the other is profoundly different. When alcohol is added to the equation, even small amounts of some drugs can have measurable effects.
And combining two “harmless” medications can have some people weaving from side to side, while others remain totally unaffected.
This is why we are seeing growing instances of zero-tolerance laws for any sort of drugged driving. But matching some of these offenses with actual punishments still awaits more research in order to better define blood levels that measure impairment, like Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) testing levels in those who are intoxicated.
Illegal drugs notwithstanding (marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, morphine, heroin, and LSD), below are some common prescription and OTC drugs that can impair drivers:
- Sleeping Pills
- Hydrocodone (vicodin. oxycodone).
How many people take drugs and drive?
According to a 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), during that year, over 27 million people aged 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol, and approximately 10 million Americans drove under the influence of illicit drugs.
NSDUH findings also show that men are more likely than women to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And a higher percentage of young adults age 18 to 25 drives after taking drugs or drinking than do adults 26 or older. A few years before the NSDUH findings, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study announced that in 2009, 18 percent of drivers killed in a crash tested positive for at least one drug.
New York DUID Laws – Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
New York’s drugged driving law prohibits driving while impaired by any of the “drugs” or “controlled substances” that are listed in the New York Public Health Law [NYCL.PBH § 3306].
In New York, suspects can get a DWAI (driving while ability impaired) if they operate a motor vehicle while being “influenced” by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. New York’s DWAI law determines that a suspected driver is “impaired” if – after consuming drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol – their ability to operate a vehicle in a “reasonable and prudent” manner has been impaired “to any extent.” Notice that there is no specifically stated amount of drugs that must be in the suspect’s system to meet the benchmark for being legally impaired.
So, the only criteria for a law enforcement official to cite someone for this offense is his or her subjective observation that this person is DWAI. One officer may think a driver is impaired while another does not.
It’s even possible to be arrested for DWAI in New York without actually driving. The statute refers to operating a vehicle by using “any mechanical or electrical agency which alone or in sequence will set in motion the motive power of that vehicle.” So, technically, anyone can be arrested for DWAI in New York for just getting in their car and starting the engine. The driver doesn’t even have to put it in gear or move the vehicle in order for a police officer to arrest them for DWAI.
If you or a family member has been injured by a driver who was – or may have been – driving while impaired by drugs and/or alcohol, we can help you receive the compensation you deserve from this negligent or careless driver. You can reach us in the City at (212) 563-1900 or on Long Island at (516) 399-2364 or fill out this form for a free assessment of your case.