Driving under the influence of drugs is a growing problem across the country. The laws in each state vary substantially, with Illinois known for its no-tolerance stance. In fact, Illinois is one of just 16 states to have zero tolerance laws on the books.
Drugged Driving is a Growing Problem
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Roadside Survey, more than 22 percent of drivers tested positive for illegal, over-the-counter or prescription drugs. The result was the same for daytime and nighttime drivers, but illegal drug use increasing and prescription drug use decreasing during the nighttime hours.
Drug use, both prescription and nonprescription, is on the rise, particularly in older adults. Illicit drug use by adults aged 50 to 59 increased from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 7.2 percent in 2010. More than 25% of fatal drugged driving accidents that same year were linked to drivers over the age of 50.
Of course, not all drugged drivers are using illicit drugs. Certain drugs prescribed for valid medical conditions can impair drivers, increasing the risk for accidents. Misuse of prescription drugs, and use of drugs prescribed to another, account for many drugged driving accidents, so a drug doesn’t have to be against the law to pose a danger.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for young people aged 16 to 19. Young drivers are more likely to underestimate or not be aware of dangerous driving situations. Combined with drug use, this can lead to tragedy. A 2011 survey showed that 1 in 6 college students had driven under the influence of a drug, other than alcohol at least once in the previous year.
In a 2010 nationwide study of fatal crashes, 46.5 percent of drivers who tested positive for drugs had used prescription drugs. Of these drivers, 36.9 percent had used marijuana and 9.8 percent had used cocaine. It is difficult to determine how many accidents are actually caused by drugged driving.
The most commonly used prescription drugs are alprazolam, hydrocodone, oxycodone and diazepam. It’s important to note that though these drugs can be prescribed legally, they are widely abused and use of a drug, when not prescribed is, itself, against the law. When prescribed, warnings are given to prescription holders, so that they are aware of the risks of driving or operating any heavy machinery, under their influence.
Illinois Drugged Driving Laws
Illinois’s drugged driving law states that a person may not drive or be in physical control of any vehicle while under the influence of any intoxicating compound or combination of intoxicating compounds “to a degree that renders the person incapable of driving safely.”
Illinois’s zero tolerance prohibition means that a driver may be arrested if a police officer displays a reasonable suspicion that any prohibited drug has been ingested before the driver took control of a vehicle. Physical evidence of drugged driving is not required, as long as the police officer has a reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired while behind the wheel. An Illinois car injury attorney can clarify these laws and help drivers build a strong defense.
Prohibited drugs include any amount of cannabis or methamphetamine. After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often used before getting behind the wheel in Illinois.
While operating a vehicle while using prescribed drugs is not necessarily illegal, this can be taken into account if the driver ends up getting into an accident. A driver arrested for drugged driving in Illinois will be charged with a DUI offense and is subject to the same penalties. A drugged driving conviction is considered the same as any other DUI offense and is used to calculate penalties, if it is a subsequent offense. Illinois has an implied consent rule for blood and urine. This means that drivers who refuse to take a drug or alcohol test can have this refusal admitted into evidence during a DUI trial.
Preventing Drugged Driving
Just as with alcohol, the use of illegal drugs or misuse of prescription drugs can make driving dangerous. If you have been involved in a drugged driving incident, it is advisable to consult with a car injury lawyer. Public health experts, worried about the increased accident risks, suggest the following for preventing drugged driving.
- Appoint, or offer to be a designated driver.
- Talk to your doctor and carefully consider driving risks, if taking certain prescription drugs.
- Avoid driving to parties where drugs might be present.
- If you think that your driving could be influenced by the use of any substance, do not get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
- Do not take any prescription drug that is not prescribed to you.
- Do not mix prescription drugs with alcohol, over-the-counter medications or any substance that could alter its effect.