Traditionally, drunk driving has gained more attention from law enforcement agencies than drugged driving, that is, driving under the influence of a substance other than alcohol. Part of the reason for this may be that the laws that apply to drugged driving tend to be less specific than those that govern driving while intoxicated by alcohol.
As a result, you may have mistaken ideas about what the law says about drugged driving. What follows is an attempt to clear up some of the common misconceptions that people have.
- Drugged driving laws only apply to illegal drugs
Prescription medications can still impair driving ability, even when taken per doctor’s instructions. The label describes any restrictions on driving or other activities while taking the medication. It is against the law to drive while under the influence of any substance, legal or otherwise.
- Drugged driving is safer than drunk driving
Different drugs can affect driving ability in various ways. Sedatives can cause you to become drowsy or dizzy, opioids can impair thinking and stimulants like methamphetamine can provoke reckless or aggressive driving. Of all the people killed in driving accidents in 2016, 43.6% had at least one drug in their systems, and over half of those had more than one.
- The level of drugs you have in your system does not matter
For drugs other than alcohol, there is not a specific dosing level that indicates per se intoxication. However, the amount of a substance that you have in your system is still relevant to the case that authorities are building against you.
- Testing for drugged driving involves providing a urine sample
Sometimes this is true. However, authorities now prefer to take a blood sample for testing purposes whenever possible. Because the body is still in the process of breaking down and metabolizing substances still in the bloodstream, they may provide a more accurate reflection of the effect on the nervous system.
As drugged driving becomes more common, the law may eventually catch up and set more specific standards.