For years, drunk driving was a major focus of law enforcement and public safety officials in the effort to prevent potentially fatal car accidents and injuries. While still a common concern on roads in North Carolina and throughout the country, attention has broadened as drugged driving becomes an increasing factor in these types of accidents. The use of any drug, including marijuana and prescription or over-the-counter medicines, can impair your driving abilities just as much as having several drinks, but preventing drugged driving presents unique challenges.
Challenges in Dealing with Drugged Driving
Research by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) indicates that approximately 50 percent of drivers in fatal car accidents tested positive for drug use, surpassing alcohol use as a leading contributing factor. While these statistics give government officials cause for concern, the nature of drug use makes it more difficult than alcohol to combat. The GHSA lists six main issues in dealing with drugged driving vs drunk driving:
- Identification: Alcohol is a single, highly identifiable substance. There are more than 400 different drugs in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fatality database.
- Data: There are abundant research and data on the effects of alcohol on drivers. There is limited data on the driving effects of either recreational or medicinal drug use.
- Use: Drunk driving laws and public service campaigns have been successful in convincing drivers to avoid the use of alcohol before getting behind the wheel, while drug use among drivers is thought to be on the rise.
- Impacts: Impairments caused by alcohol are well documented. With so many different types of drugs and impacts that vary among users, it is difficult to measure the effects each drug has.
- Risks: Crash risks with alcohol use is specific, while drugged driving risks vary depending on the type of drug involved.
- Attitudes: Drunk driving has become socially unacceptable among the general public. Most people are still unaware of the dangers caused by drugged driving.
Efforts to Prevent Drugged Driving Accidents
While tackling drugged driving does present unique challenges, the GHSA is busy coordinating efforts among states. In addition to providing tools to help raise public awareness, there has been increased funding for tougher drugged driving laws and increased training among law enforcement so they can better identify drivers who may be under the influence of drugs.
Under North Carolina law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of any amount or type of drug or any combination of drugs and alcohol. Penalties for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) include fines, driver’s license suspension, and a potential jail sentence.
A drugged driver who causes a car accident not only faces criminal charges for the laws they have broken, but the driver can also be held liable for any losses injured victims suffer because of the crash.
Some of the damages the victim may be entitled to include the following:
- Medical expenses for treatment of injuries, such as doctor visits, hospital stays, surgeries, physical therapy, medication, and medical devices
- Loss of income if the victim is unable to work while they recover.
- Loss of future income if the victim is left with a permanent injury leaving them unable to go back to their prior job
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Permanent disability
Financial compensation to the victim is handled by the civil courts and is entirely separate from the charges the driver faces in criminal court, however, these pending charges and/or convictions can be used as evidence against the driver in any civil action the victim files. A Carolinas personal injury attorney can help a victim pursue damages against the at-fault driver.
Contact Us for Professional Assistance
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by a driver under the influence of drugs, you may be entitled to damages for the losses the injuries you have sustained have caused you. At Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, our legal team will work with you to determine what legal action should be pursued in your case. Our North Carolina car accident attorneys will aggressively advocate for you and your family to make sure the drugged driver responsible for your losses is held accountable for the damages they have caused. Call our office today to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation.