We all know the dangers and legal consequences of drunk driving. But did you know that prescription drugs may cause more accidents than alcohol and marijuana combined?
A study by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine found that 50 percent of drivers took at least one prescription drug in the past week. With an increasingly aging population and prevalence of prescription medications, medical professionals and researchers are paying much more attention to the hidden dangers.
False Sense of Security
Many drivers disregard or are oblivious to the dangers. Patients cocoon themselves into assuming that if their doctors prescribe those medications, they must be safe, because they’re not illicit street drugs or alcohol, or because their doctor didn’t warn them.
Make no mistake: Many prescription medications impair the critical eye-hand coordination and cognitive abilities that are crucially needed for safe driving, such as:
- Motor skills
- Spatial orientation
- Reaction time
How Do Prescription Drugs Affect Driving?
Although the same drug may affect people differently (depending on height, weight, sex, and metabolism), common effects may include:
- Reduced reaction times
- Aggressive or reckless driving
Even over-the-counter cold medicines can turn someone into a sleepy and dangerous driver.
Scant Information in the Field
Unlike the more developed standards and science behind what constitutes drunk driving (for example, Breathalyzer and field sobriety tests, legal limits such as the 0.08 percent blood alcohol content), scant information exists for driving-while-prescription drugged.
Statistics aren’t accurate, because existing field sobriety tests don’t always detect impairment by prescription drugs. Thus, accidents caused by prescription drugs often aren’t identified at the time. Unlike with alcohol, no reliable roadside tests can detect impairment by other drugs. The only reliable way to determine whether prescription drugs contributed to an accident is through expensive and time-consuming blood or urine testing.
Therefore, statistics vastly underestimate the number of accidents caused by prescription drug.
Drugged Driving: Not Just a Teenage Problem
Older persons significantly contribute to dangerous prescription-drugged driving. Sobering statistics from the National Institute of Drug Abuse include:
- More than 25 percent of drugged drivers in fatal crashes were 50 or older
- Illegal drug use in adults 50 to 59 doubled between 2002 and 2010
- Due to mental decline, some elderly take prescription medications in the wrong amounts or at the wrong times
- Older prescription users may not break down the drugs in their system as quickly as younger people
These factors can lead to unintentionally driving while intoxicated.
Injured by a Drugged Driver? Call an Experienced Richmond, Virginia, Personal Injury Attorney Today for Help
If you were injured in an accident caused by a driver whom you believe was under the influence of prescription drugs, talk to an attorney as soon as you can.The Richmond car accident attorneys of Emroch & Kilduff are dedicated to representing the rights of the injured and will not collect any legal fees unless we successfully recover compensation on your behalf. To schedule a completely free, no-obligation consultation with one of our lawyers, call our office today at (804) 358-1568 or send us an email through our online contact form.