Driving on New Jersey’s busy roads, highways and interstates is demanding. You need to be able to keep your attention on the road in front of you. Also, you must be aware of other drivers and potential changes in road conditions or traffic patterns. However, this type of safe driving can be impossible if you are operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs.
Drugged driving, in fact, can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. The use of illegal drugs and certain legal medications can impair your physical and mental faculties and make a car accident highly likely.
What is Drugged Driving?
Under New Jersey traffic laws, driving while under the influence of any kind of mind-altering substance – whether it is illegal drugs or prescription and over-the-counter medications – is considered a violation of the state’s driving while impaired laws. The offense is punishable to the same extent as driving under the influence of alcohol.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drugged driving can have the same effects as drunk driving, putting drivers, their passengers and others on or near the road at risk.
As NIDA reports, a nationwide study of deadly motor vehicle crashes that was done several years ago found that nearly 50 percent of the drivers who tested positive for drugs had consumed a prescription drug such as a pain killer or anxiety medication, including:
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Additionally, out of those drivers who tested positive for drugs, 36.9 percent had been under the influence of marijuana, while 9.8 percent had cocaine in their system, NIDA reports.
Even over-the-counter medications can result in impairment, including cough and cold medicines, allergy medicines and sleep aids.
Why Is Drugged Driving So Dangerous?
Illegal drugs, prescription medications and over-the-counter medicines all have the potential to significantly impair your reasoning, judgment and timing in ways that are similar to the effects of alcohol consumption.
According to the NIDA, different drugs produce the following effects on drivers:
Marijuana – Slows reaction times, decreases coordination and impairs judgment concerning distances and time.
Cocaine or methamphetamine – Drivers can become dangerously aggressive and show increases in reckless driving behaviors.
Sedatives, pain medications and cold medicines – May cause dizziness and drowsiness, impairing perception and vision as well as slowing reaction times.
When a person combines the use of drugs with alcohol, of course, the situation becomes even more dangerous.
How Common Are Drugged Driving Accidents?
Public awareness and law enforcement efforts have successfully lowered the overall rate of drunk driving in New Jersey and across the country in recent years. However, at the same time, drugged driving has risen.
For instance, in the latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, “nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety.”
In New Jersey, drugged driving accidents have become more common, making headlines on a regular basis. Examples include:
In February 2016, Channel 4 New York reported that a New Jersey man was charged with driving under the influence after causing an accident on the New Jersey Turnpike that killed a New York science teacher and his five-year-old daughter. The man had taken more than 10 prescription Adderall pills in the 24 hours prior to the accident and tested positive for methamphetamines at the scene, the report states.
In January 2016, NJ.com reported that police officers had to smash the window out of a car after witnessing a woman sitting slumped over the steering wheel in the middle of a busy intersection. The driver was charged with driving under the influence of drugs after white powder and several syringes were found sitting next to her, according to the report.
In December 2015, New Jersey Hills Media reported that an 18-year-old driver in a crash had been charged with driving under the influence of drugs after testing positive for marijuana. Fortunately, no one was injured in that accident.
Is Drugged Driving Among Teens a Concern?
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the use of marijuana while driving has risen alarmingly. In fact, the use of marijuana is more prevalent today among young drivers than the use of alcohol.
The DEA cites studies indicating that the incidence of driving under the influence of illicit and illegal drugs peaks among drivers age 19. Also, according to the DEA, as many as 40 percent of drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 reported getting behind the wheel within two hours of using marijuana or other illegal substances.
At the same time, AAA reports that older adults are more likely to drive under the influence of prescription drugs such as pain medications, anxiety drugs and heart medicines.
Medications such as diuretics, cholesterol-lowering drugs and high blood pressure medicines can also have a serious impact on driving ability, making these drivers more at risk for being involved in drugged driving accidents, AAA notes.
Hurt by a Drugged Driver? A New Jersey Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a crash caused by a drugged driver, contact Davis, Saperstein, & Salomon, P.C. Our experienced New Jersey car accident lawyers can advise you on how to seek compensation for the injuries you have suffered.
Depending on the circumstances of your particular case, we may be able to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company or pursue compensation through a car accident lawsuit, including recovery of your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.
At Davis, Saperstein, & Salomon, P.C., we provide aggressive, effective legal representation. Call or contact us online today for a free consultation.