It is common knowledge that it is illegal to drive in Virginia while intoxicated by alcohol and that it certainly isn’t a good idea to drive while under the influence of an illegal drug.  But how many people consider the effect of driving while taking perfectly legal prescription drugs?  Not everyone is aware that some prescription drugs can contribute to car accidents, crashes, and injuries.

There are warnings on drugs that affect a person’s ability to drive a car.  For example, one reads “do not attempt to drive or operate heavy machinery while taking this medication”.  So the warnings are there, but how many people actually read them – and then actually heed them?  Could you or a loved one be injured in an auto accident by somebody who was driving under the influence of a perfectly legal prescription drug?

To address this situation, police in some jurisdictions are being trained to recognize drugged drivers.  Of the drugs that adversely affect a person’s ability to drive a car or truck illegal drugs like heroin are the most common.  However, legal prescription drugs like OxyContin and various antidepressants and narcotics come a close second.

The problem is so bad that some officials believe an effort similar to the very successful campaign to end drunk driving is needed to crack down on drivers impaired by both legal and illegal drugs.  Despite the fact that drugged driving is about as common as drunk driving, it gets only a small fraction of the attention.

Part of the challenge is that while many police officers are trained to recognize drunk drivers, few are trained to recognize drugged drivers.  This is slowly changing as some states begin training officers to specifically recognize drivers who may be under the influence of legal or illegal drugs. 

Another problem is that there are no quick legal tests that officers can administer when they stop a person suspected of drugged driving.  Drunk drivers can be given a breathalyzer or several well-recognized performance tests, but there aren’t any similar tests for drivers under the influence of either legal or illegal drugs.

Finally, while there is a legal limit in Virginia for officers to determine that a person is, in fact, driving drunk, there are no similar legal limits for drugged drivers.  The lack of a clear legal definition of drugged driving makes it challenging for law enforcement officers and the courts to catch and prosecute these drivers.

Don’t let a drugged or drunk driver ruin your life.  If you or someone you love has been involved in a car accident, then please contact the Northern Virginia law offices of Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas today.  We will work with you to secure the justice and compensation that you deserve.

Richard A. Dulaney
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Richard has over 30 years of experience in personal injury law.

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