Statistics were recently compiled that show that drug-related car crashes in the state of Utah that can be categorized as DUI cases (Driving Under the Influence) and that happened in 2015 actually doubled the rates previously reported the year before.
The problem is that people are failing to understand that it’s not just illicit drugs and alcohol that are causing these crashes; people with legitimate prescriptions are getting behind the wheel when they shouldn’t be. This too can cause injuries and fatalities in much the same way as an illicit drug or too many drinks can, which is why the warnings on prescription medications telling patients not to drive should not be ignored.
The UHP is full aware of the problem and is taking active measures to help stop it. For instance, they have certified nearly 290 troopers in the past two years as Drug Recognition Experts. To qualify, the troopers had to attend a training program that provided them with the drug-specific tools they would need to recognize and detain impaired individuals during traffic stops.
Sgt. Todd Royce with the UHP says that in his 22 years on the road, he has taken several people into custody that would have otherwise never driven drunk, but that chose to get behind the wheel while under the influence the effects of a prescription medication. Some of the more common prescription drugs that he sees include opiates, THC, and meth.
What’s scary is that once someone is in this situation, once he or she apologizes for the incident and blames the medication they’re taking, then they have essentially just confessed to being under the influence while driving, yet they thought they were making an otherwise harmless statement.
Someone who is found guilty of driving under the influence, no matter the substance, can still suffer the same consequences as someone who drove drunk or high. And really, if that person becomes a danger to others on the road, does it matter what the substance was specifically that they took? Not really.
To be considered driving under the influence or impaired, the driving ability of that person must be impacted to the point of being a danger on the road. Unfortunately, as of now there is no set amount of a drug that needs to be in a person’s system for them to be considered legally intoxicated like they can be with alcohol at the 0.08 level.
However, considering how prevalent prescription drug abuse is becoming, and considering how many of those users of prescription drugs may be on the road at any point, it is likely that measures will be implemented to put some sort of standard in place by which to measure those who are to be punished for their actions, and to what degree they should be punished.
Interestingly, in 2009 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that while drunk driving is on the decline, about 16 percent of nighttime drivers have some kind of drug in their system.