Police have long been aggressive in prosecuting drunk drivers because of widespread public concern regarding the dangers of DUI. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other advocacy groups have succeeded in stigmatizing drunk driving to the point where harsh penalties are often called for by the public for impaired driving. Now, it is looking likely that there is a coming crackdown on drugged driving as well.
USA Today reported recently that a "spate of drugged driving deaths alarms U.S. regulators." As the news reports on the "alarming" increase in drugged drivers, however, it is important to remember that the actual level of impairment caused by use of some substances, like cannabis, is not necessarily clear.
Still, because of the fact regulators indicate a substantial risk of drugged driving, crackdowns are likely and even those with cannabis in their systems could face serious consequences. Those who are accused need to make certain their rights are protected so they do not find themselves in a situation where they face harsh penalties just for testing positive with drugs while they are driving, even if they are not actually impaired enough for their driving abilities to be affected. This doesn't mean it is safe to drive after doing drugs- but it is also important for realistic assessments to be made regarding risks when drugged driving laws are passed!
Alabama Code Section 32-5A-191 is the statute that address drugged driving within the state of Alabama. It prohibits driving while under the influence of a controlled substance that "renders" you incapable of driving in a safe way. The same statute also prohibits motorists from driving under any combination of drugs and alcohol that renders them unsafe.
While the statute stipulates that having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or greater is a de facto violation of the drunk driving law, there is no such clear guidelines for drugged driving. It is enough for law enforcement to simply believe a drugged driver is under the control of a substance such that it influences his driving abilities. Of course, it is difficult to tell when someone is under that control.
USA Today's report on the troubling rise in drugged driving death indicates that: "Researchers caution that the connection between drugs and deadly crashes is not as significant as the effect of drunken driving." USA Today also says the data that is available isn't comprehensive, and that researchers knowledge certain drugs don't actually have an effect on the driver.
Despite this caveat, USA Today also reports statistics showing that 21 percent of 31,166 fatal crashes in the United States in 2015 involved at least one driver who tested positive for drugs following the incident. This is a 12 percent rise in the number of driver's testing positive for drugs from 2005. This rise in the number who test positive, however, could possibly be explained by the fact that there are simply more people using drugs with the increased liberalization of marijuana laws. More needs to be done to determine if there is causation- are the drugs causing the accidents, or are people who get into fatal crashes simply more likely to test positive just because more people in general will test positive?
Regardless of the realities of what is actually occurring, the fact that regulators are growing concerned about drugged driving means there is a likely crackdown coming on drugged drivers. If you are caught up in it, consequences could be serious. Be sure to get the right legal help.