When most of us think about the issue of impaired driving, we focus on driving under the influence of alcohol. A recent report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association, however, indicates that drugged driving is every bit as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than drunk driving. The Omaha DUI lawyers at Petersen Law Office explain the study’s findings as they relate to driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) as well as what Nebraska law says about DUID.
Nebraska Revised Statute 60-6, 196 is very clear when it comes to the illegality of driving while under the influence of drugs which states as follows:
(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to operate or be in the actual physical control of any motor vehicle:
(a) While under the influence of alcoholic liquor or of any drug;
(b) When such person has a concentration of eight-hundredths of one gram or more by weight of alcohol per one hundred milliliters of his or her blood; or
(c) When such person has a concentration of eight-hundredths of one gram or more by weight of alcohol per two hundred ten liters of his or her breath.
(2) Any person who operates or is in the actual physical control of any motor vehicle while in a condition described in subsection (1) of this section shall be guilty of a crime and upon conviction punished as provided in sections 60-6,197.02 to 60-6,197.08.
The Drugged Driving Report
A recent report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association offers hard data to support what law enforcement agencies and legislators already know – that drugged driving is a serious problem across the nation. While the rate of drunk driving has decreased by about 3 percent over the last decade, drugged driving has increased by 16 percent from 2006 to 2016. Moreover, the report found that in 2016, 44 percent of fatally-injured drivers with known results tested positive for drugs, up from 28 percent just 10 years prior.
Funded by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org), the report found that among drug-positive fatally-injured drivers in 2016, 38 percent tested positive for some form of marijuana, 16 percent tested positive for opioids, and 4 percent tested positive for both marijuana and opioids. While alcohol-impaired driving remains a significant threat to traffic safety, presence of alcohol in fatally-injured drivers is slightly lower than it was a decade ago, decreasing from 41 percent in 2006 to 38 percent in 2016. Some of the strategies that have been used to address alcohol-impaired driving can also be employed to deter drug-impaired driving, yet drug impairment presents several unique challenges. For example, there is no nationally-accepted method for testing driver drug impairment; there are an unwieldy number of drugs to test for; and different drugs have different impairing effects in different drivers.
Report author Dr. Jim Hedlund, former senior NHTSA official and nationally-recognized issue expert, explained, “Drugs can impair, and drug-impaired drivers can crash. But it’s impossible to understand the full scope of the drugged driving problem because many drivers who are arrested or involved in crashes, even those who are killed, are not tested for drugs. Drivers who are drug-positive may not necessarily be impaired.”
Adding to these concerns is the frequency of poly-drug use, or the use of multiple potentially-impairing substances simultaneously. In 2016, 51% of drug-positive fatally-injured drivers were found positive for two or more drugs. Alcohol is often in the mix as well: 49% of drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for alcohol in 2016 also tested positive for drugs.
“Alcohol-impaired driving and drug-impaired driving can no longer be treated as separate issues,” said Ralph Blackman, President and CEO of Responsibility.org. “Drunk driving, which was involved in 28 percent of 2016 traffic fatalities, remains a critical issue; however, to curb impaired driving, we have to think about the combination of substances drivers are often putting into their systems at the same time.”
Recommendations to Decrease DUID
The report also identifies opportunities for GHSA’s member State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) and other traffic safety stakeholders to reduce marijuana- and opioid-impaired driving. These recommendations include:
- Closely following the development and testing of new impairment assessment tools, such as oral fluid devices and marijuana breath test instruments;
- Supporting the drug-impaired driving prosecution process through increased law enforcement training, authorizing electronic search warrants for drug tests, and educating prosecutors and judges on the unique challenges of drugged driving cases;
- Partnering across the public health, pharmaceutical, and marijuana industries to educate patients and customers about the potential impairing effects of these drugs; and
- Using public awareness campaigns to change driver attitudes about driving under the influence of marijuana and opioids.
“Too many people operate under the false belief that marijuana or opioids don’t impair their ability to drive, or even that these drugs make them safer drivers,” noted GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “Busting this myth requires states to expand their impaired driving campaigns to include marijuana and opioids along with alcohol to show drivers that impairment is impairment, regardless of substance.”
Contact Omaha DUI Lawyers at Petersen Law Office
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs in Nebraska, it is always in your best interest to consult directly with a DUI defense attorney about the specific facts and circumstances of your case. Contact the Omaha DUI lawyers at Petersen Law Office 24 hours a day at 402-513-2180 to discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense lawyer.