For several decades now both public and private agencies and organizations have led a national campaign to warn people about the dangers involved in drinking and driving. Overall, the campaign has been successful as the number of alcohol related collisions and fatalities has steadily decreased across the United States. Another danger looms on the horizon though, according to some experts – drugged driving. A 2014 study on drugged driving, conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center, indicates that prescription opioid pain killers lead to impaired driving in many patients, creating an unknown risk on the nation’s roadways.
In recent years, the news has been full of stories about the dangers of prescription pain killers and the risk of addiction. While those concerns may, or may not be valid, another danger associated with the increased use of prescription pain killers has been overlooked – the risk of impaired driving. The side effects associated with opioid pain medications including confusion, slowed reflexes, sleepiness, low blood pressure, insomnia, hypotension, dizziness, headache, and nausea, can directly impact a motorist’s ability to safely handle a vehicle. Studies and doctors appear to agree that once a user has been stabilized on opioid pain medication the user may be able to safely operate a vehicle; however, the risk for impairment is highest when the user first begins taking opioids, increases the dosage, or combines opioid use with other drugs or substances that affect the central nervous system.
The 2014 study by University of Nebraska Medical Center analyzed data gathered by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System regarding fatal crashes occurring between 1993 and 2010 in which the driver tested positive for drugs. The study found that:
- Drivers are combining multiple drugs and/or drugs with alcohol more often. In 1993 only 1 in 8 drivers had multiple drugs in their system. By 2010 that figure rose to 1 in 5.
- In 2010, drugged drivers accounted for 11.4 percent of all fatal crashes
- 39 percent of the prescription drug users were overage 50
- 60 percent of the marijuana only users were younger than age 30
As the population of the U.S. continues to age, and more and more states legalize marijuana, researchers predict the trend of increased instances of drugged driving to continue.
In the State of Nebraska, drugged driving is a criminal offense and is charged and punished the same as driving under the influence of alcohol is.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Nebraska contact the Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense attorney.