The effects of alcohol on human physiology are well documented, yet the same cannot be said about the majority of drugs. This is one reason why drugged driving is such a complex legal issue. The effects of one drug versus another will vary widely depending on the individual. A driver who has consumed methamphetamine or cocaine, for example, might be prone to aggressive or reckless behavior. Sedatives, on the other hand, will primarily cause dizziness and drowsiness.
Alcohol is the most common culprit for the majority of all substances involved in substance impaired car crashes, although marijuana is the next most commonly found drug in blood tests conducted on drug impaired drivers.
Marijuana creates delays in reaction times, affects one’s perception of time and space, and reduces muscle coordination.
Commonly seen effects in a marijuana impaired driver include:
- Increase in lane changes and weaving.
- Poor reaction times.
- Decreased attention to road conditions.
There are tests which can accurately detect levels of THC— the mind altering ingredient in the marijuana plant– yet the role which marijuana actually plays in car crashes isn’t entirely clear.
This ambiguity is partially due to the fact that THC can be detected for days or weeks after being used. This means that a driver may test positive for marijuana immediately after an accident, even though the drug was not a factor in causing the accident because it was consumed long before the car accident actually happened.
Prescription drugs are often linked with drugged driving car crashes. The most common prescription drugs involved in traffic collisions were pain relievers. Many car crashes involving drugged drivers are caused by a combination of prescription and illegal drugs, which only complicates issues of who, or what, is at fault.
Cases involving prescription drugs are especially complicated, and there are several factors which must be assessed and/or proven anytime these types of drugs are involved in a car crash:
- Warning labels and disclaimers on prescription drug bottles.
- Whether the person was following or defying doctor’s orders to refrain from driving while taking these drugs.
- Whether the person was following doctor’s orders regarding the amount of drugs consumed.
- Expert testimony about a particular drug’s effects on the brain and the ability to drive.
- Whether the driver was behaving and or driving in a dangerous, erratic manner when the crash occurred.