Don’t Drug and Drive.
Most people know that impaired driving is a bad idea and that it is illegal in all fifty states, but what does impaired driving really mean? Historically, information and enforcement has been focused on drunk driving prevention, but recently, driving while under the influence of drugs has become a real issue, comparable to drunk driving. In fact, in New York State during the years of 2013-2017, there was a yearly average of 317 alcohol related traffic fatalities, as compared with 255 drug related traffic fatalities. Both drunk driving and drugged driving is impaired driving.
So, what is “drugged driving”? According to the New York State Vehicle and Traffic law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while the driver’s ability to drive is impaired by the use of a drug or a combination of drugs (1192-4 and 1192-4A). A “drug” is defined as any substance that is listed in section 3306 of the public health law, which are too numerous to list here, but include legally prescribed medications and illegal drugs (marihuana, heroin, cocaine, etc.). However, the distinction is not the drug, but rather the impairment. Driving a motor vehicle safely requires awareness, concentration, ability to multitask, muscle coordination and the mental ability to process and react quickly. Any impairment of these abilities makes it unsafe and illegal to drive. Therefore, if a drug is causing impairment, it is drugged driving.
What is the difference between “drugged driving” and “driving while intoxicated”? Drug impairment is more complex that alcohol impairment. As mentioned above, a “drug” is one of a large number of possible substances that may cause impairment. Unlike alcohol impairment, which is detectable and measurable through standardized field sobriety tests and breath/blood samples, drug impairment has a variety of expressions, based on the actual drug or drugs involved and a much more detailed set of tests must be conducted to narrow down the drug impairment. Specially trained officers, Drug Recognition Experts, are often called upon to assist in suspected drug impairment investigations.
What can we do about it? Check yourself first. If you are taking any medications, consult your doctor, read the labels and information provided and make sure you are safe to drive while taking the medications. Don’t use illegal drugs and don’t take medication that was not prescribed for you. If you choose to use a drug that causes impairment, do not drive. Find a sober friend or family member, hire a taxi, use a ride sharing service, or use public transportation or some other alternative. Check others next. Talk to your friends and family about drugged driving and make sure they are informed and are making wise decisions. Check the roads. Be careful around other drivers that appear to be impaired. If you see repeated driving behavior that you believe is a result of impairment or you witness an accident, please call 911 to report it.
“Driving is a privilege and a huge responsibility. Take it seriously, so that you and others can make it home safely. Don’t Drug and Drive.” -Nathanael Propert – NYS Trooper