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Arkady Frekhtman

Accident & Injury Lawyer New York Discusses Hazards of Drugged Driving

It is important to understand that legal drugs can lead to illegal driving explains a New York City accident & injury lawyer at the Frekhtman & Associates law firm. Although the alleged facts of the case are not yet clear, the arrest of Tiger Woods on DUI charges focused further attention on the problem of impaired driving due to prescription drug use. Impaired drivers may cause accidents resulting in injuries or fatalities.

Mixing Drugs and Impaired Driving

After his May 29 arrest by police in Jupiter, Florida, the professional golfer stated he had taken Xanax and other prescription medications prior to the incident, according to Time. Authorities quickly determined that there was no alcohol in his system, but it did list Vicodin, a pain medication, in an affidavit. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), mixing Xanax with an opioid drug like Vicodin can cause “profound sedation.”

Certainly, legal prescription drugs may seriously impact one’s ability behind the wheel. Reports that Woods was found asleep at the wheel with his vehicle partially in a traffic lane are concerning. It is not difficult to imagine what might have happened if a vehicle driven by an inattentive motorist had approached him from behind.

Signs of Impairment

Officers frequently pull motorists over when they observe any of these signs of impairment potentially related to drugged driving:

  • Reckless driving
  • Going left of center
  • Erratic braking
  • Weaving
  • Driving too slowly
  • Stopping for no reason

In the Woods incident, officers observed that the motorist appeared to stop for no apparent reason. The timing of a traffic accident may also alert an officer to look for signs of impairment. In Woods’ case, the incident occurred at approximately 2 a.m..

Usually, law enforcement will seek to administer a blood alcohol test in the field.  Such tests may help to establish whether drivers are legally drunk. However, what if no alcohol consumption is involved? Establishing that prescription drugs caused impairment can be somewhat subjective because no reliable field testing for impairment due to drugs is available.

What about drivers who ingest both alcohol and prescription medications? This is a key question because drugs may exaggerate the impact of alcohol on a motorist’s skills. The presence of alcohol may lead to under-reporting of drugged driving because officers already have enough information to make an arrest when there’s a BAC of .08 or higher.

Observations by Law Enforcement  

As an officer approaches a driver, he or she may observe certain telltale signs of impaired driving:

  • Bloodshot or glassy eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Fumbling or other evidence of diminished motor skills
  • Smell of alcohol or cover-up odors
  • Inconsistent or unusual statements
  • Inability to answer simple questions

Laws Regarding Drugged Driving

Laws regarding drugged driving vary from state-to-state. Given the absence of a drug test that functions like a blood alcohol test, prosecutors often examine dashcam police videos and results of sobriety field tests to determine whether DUI charges are appropriate.

When a person is injured or killed by an impaired motorist, it is often possible to cite impairment as evidence of negligent conduct. When survivors or victims can reasonably assert negligence in a personal injury lawsuit, it is possible to seek compensation for medical expenses, pain, suffering and lost wages. The parties involved settle many such suits without ever going to trial.

If you or a family member is a victim of an impaired driver’s conduct, it is possible to review the details of the incident with an attorney focused on relevant areas of the law. Our firm provides such a consultation free of charge. We fight hard to get our clients the full compensation they deserve under the law. To learn more, or to schedule a consultation, please contact us.