Drugged drivers present a risk of harm to San Diego motorists

In April, the Los Angeles Times reported on the tragic death of a police department motorcycle officer. The officer died after being struck from behind by a Chevrolet Blazer operated by a driver allegedly impaired by cocaine use. The chief of the Los Angeles Police Department viewed the death as being highly ironic in light of the fact that the officer had, during his career, arrested more than 3,000 drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, using any mind-altering drug makes it unsafe to drive a car and puts the driver at risk but also others who share the road. Similarly, California's Highway Safety Plan observes that driving while drug impaired can result in car accidents causing injury and death. Drugged driving is viewed as being extremely dangerous since drugs alter perception, attention, balance, coordination and reaction time. The Highway Safety Plan identifies marijuana as the most prevalent drug detected in impaired drivers. Other drugs typically detected in impaired drivers are opiates, cocaine, amphetamines and benzodiazepines.

The effect of drugs on driving skills depends to some degree on the drug in question. For example, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration finds that marijuana, the most widely abused drug, "slows a driver's perception of time, space, and distance." On the other hand, cocaine "causes drivers to speed and change lanes without signaling" thereby placing "innocent people at risk of a deadly accident."

Abuse of prescription drugs

Illegal drugs, such as cocaine, are only part of the drugged driving problem. According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, many prescription drugs, including benzodiazepines prescribed for anxiety or sleep disorders and opioid pain relievers, come with warnings against the driving after use. There is a reason for those warnings. If prescription drugs are abused or are not taken according to directions, impaired driving is likely to follow thereby presenting a risk for an auto crash.

The San Diego County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force concludes that prescription drug abuse, when coupled with driving, is a significant problem in San Diego County. In 2012, the District Attorney's office made 74 DUI prosecutions where prescription drug abuse was a factor. The Task Force found that 16 percent of attendees in a DUI program reported having used drugs at the time of their arrest. Further, over 800 individuals in DUI treatment reported prescription drug abuse coupled with alcohol use.

Late last year the San Diego County Sheriff's office received a $300,000 grant in order to better combat impaired driving. The Sheriff's Department has announced that it will use the grant monies for aggressive law enforcement efforts including the following:

  • Setting up more checkpoints in an attempt to catch drugged drivers.
  • Educating the public on the dangers posed by drugged driving.
  • Better training for law enforcement officers so they can better detect drug-impaired drivers .

Seeking compensation for personal injuries

Drivers whose judgments are impaired by drug use present a significant risk of bodily harm to other motorists and their passengers. If you have sustained personal injuries resulting from an automobile accident caused by a motorist whose judgment was impaired as a result of drug use, you should contact an attorney immediately. An attorney experienced in handling automobile accident cases can sit down with you to discuss the circumstances of the accident and provide you with advice on how to go about seeking monetary compensation from the person responsible for causing your injuries.