Reminder: Drug-impaired driving can get you a DUI

It’s true in Tennessee and every other state. Driving under the influence of drugs is illegal and can get you charged with DUI. Depending on the circumstances, you could be facing anywhere from 48 hours in jail (uncomplicated 1st offense DUI) to several years behind bars (vehicular assault, vehicular homicide or child endangerment DUI).

Nevertheless, many people are arrested for DUI-drugs every year. Some people don’t realize that the drugs they take can impair their driving, especially in the case of marijuana. Some people believe that some drugs, such as stimulants, can actually help their driving. Sometimes, the drug that impairs a driver is a legal, prescription or over-the-counter medication.

It’s important to realize that many substances can affect your driving. Moreover, when you’re impaired, you may not be able to accurately assess how impaired you are.

In other words, you should not drive if you are using any substance that makes you feel different than usual. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says, “if you feel different, you drive different.’

What are the most common drugs found in drivers?

The most common drug impaired drivers use is marijuana, followed closely by a combination of drugs. Of drivers with positive toxicology tests in 2017, 38% were positive for cannabis, while 37% were positive for more than one drug (or a drug and alcohol). Beyond those drivers, toxicology results identified:

  • Stimulants (31%)
  • Depressants (29%)
  • Narcotic painkillers (28%)
  • Dissociative anesthetics (2%)
  • Hallucinogens (1%)
  • Inhalants (1%)

These percentages are among drivers who tested positive in a toxicology test. Some of those who tested positive may have had prescriptions for the drugs in question, such as painkillers and dissociative anesthetics like Ketamine. Others were using the substances illicitly or the substances were illegal altogether. This breakdown doesn’t include people who were using over-the-counter medications that impaired them.

What’s the harm?

You may feel fine when taking your medications. You may question whether recreational drugs are as dangerous for drivers as law enforcement claims. You need to be aware that impairment does happen and can be extremely dangerous.

Drugs have different effects and they can impair your driving in different ways. For example, alcohol, marijuana and other depressants affect your judgment and slow your coordination and reaction times. Stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine can cause you to drive more aggressively or even recklessly. Mixing drugs tends to amplify the effects of each rather than canceling each other out.

Over-the-counter medications can often cause drowsiness and dizziness. Look for warning labels that say “do not operate heavy machinery” until you are familiar with the effect of the medication.

The main harm is clearly that you could injure yourself or others. Any impairing substance can make it harder to be vigilant and drive according to the rules of the road. Impairing substances can also affect your judgment, so you may not react appropriately when a problem arises.

Secondarily, you could be charged with DUI. That can be extremely upsetting and puts you at risk for jail time, fines, driver’s license suspension and other penalties.

A DUI conviction can also be quite costly, with some estimating the overall expense in terms of fines, restitution, court costs, alcohol program costs, towing, license reinstatement fees, attorneys fees, SR-22 insurance costs and ignition interlock costs at around $10,000 or more.

Get the help you need

If you are arrested for DUI-drugs, you need help. You may need treatment for an addiction. You definitely need an effective defense. Explore your options with an experienced DUI defense attorney.

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