The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), working in conjunction with the Department of Transportation as well as other Federal and independent agencies, is attempting to reduce drugged driving by 10% within the United States before the year 2015. These organizations are stepping up efforts to put drugged driving awareness at the top of the Highway Safety Agenda. According to the Institute for Behavior and Health (IBH) “It’s time to recognize and address the similarities between drunk and drugged driving.”
Additionally, the National Transportation Safety Board has identified Substance Impaired Driving as one of the top 10 transportation challenges for 2013. Multiple agencies are working to expand our drugged driving knowledge base in an effort to promote more effective deterrence and detection programs, policies, and laws.
The National Drug Control Strategy in an effort to meet this goal encourages:
- Improvements to educational and awareness campaigns,
- Improved data collection, differentiating drugged driving characteristics,
- Additional training for law enforcement and first responders to help identify drugged drivers,
- Development of appropriate and consistent screening methodologies for lab use in detecting the presence of drugs, and most importantly for
- States to enact Per Se Impairment laws
Creating and implementing awareness campaigns may be the easiest part of their job. The issue of drugged driving is complex and requires a multifaceted approach.
Federal regulators recognize a national scarcity of data and are working to change this. Furthermore, they have identified a lack of consistency between states in terms of a unified approach to drugged driving; a current inability of state data systems to distinguish between the types of impairment, as well as an absence of separate or gradient sanctions to address drugged driving infractions.
Other complications exist as well. Factors such as overall health, age, weight, and various drug and alcohol combinations can influence how an individual behaves; and the extensive lists of medications and combinations thereof, make setting definitive laboratory markers or thresholds difficult. Specific individual tolerances vary and often cannot be measured with definitive blood level markers, as with alcohol. However, to date, the United States lags behind other countries in setting these goals.
We had made progress in training safety officers to recognize the signs of drugged driving. Currently, forty-nine states, including Maine, offer Drug Evaluation and Classification Programs (DEC) which train law enforcement personnel to become Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) enabling them to properly identify impairment and determine the type of drug use suspected.
To date, seventeen states have zero-tolerance laws, or Per Se Laws in effect, which make having illicit drugs in your system while driving illegal, although specific regulations may vary. Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin all have some form of Per Se Law on the books making it a crime to operate a motor vehicle with any detectable level of illicit drug in the bloodstream.
While Maine has not currently enacted a strict Per Se law, Title 29-A Section 2401 & Title 29-A Section 2411 address intoxicants, making it illegal to operate a motor vehicle while impaired within our state as well. However, adoption of a Per Se law with more stringent penalties has the potential to further deter this driver behavior.
One thing is clear: impaired or drugged drivers are not only putting themselves at risk, they are endangering the safety of others who share the road. We need to recognize that even prescription or over the counter drugs can substantially impair our perception and motor skills when behind the wheel. If your accident was caused by an impaired or irresponsible driver, you may be able to recover for your damages. Contact the Maine Car Accident attorneys at Briggs & Wholey for a free case evaluation at (888) 596-1099.