Drug-impaired drivers are a risk, but testing is problematic

| Dec 23, 2020 | Drunk Driving, DUI

Today, everyone knows the risks of driving while drunk. Organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have been educating the public about DUI for over 30 years. But few Americans know that the level of drug-impaired drivers on the roads is higher than drunk drivers. Residents of Pennsylvania need to inform themselves of the complex issues related to drug use and driving.

The role of prescription meds

Many Americans take at least one drug per day for medical reasons. For example, people may have prescriptions for sleeping pills or anxiety medication, like Xanax. These can show up in a drug screening test even if they’ve been used responsibly. What’s more, it can take weeks for the results of a drug screening test to arrive. In the meantime, someone who acted within the bounds of the law may have been unfairly arrested.

There are special challenges with testing for drug impairment. For one thing, not every person will take the same dose of a medication. It’s common for health care providers to titrate a dose up or down as a person’s symptoms or tolerance for it change. DUI arrests are fairly straightforward. Authorities administer a Breathalyze to the driver, a specialized test for one substance. Alcohol is never prescribed, so there’s no question about what “dose” is legal. Dealing with an entire pharmacopeia is another matter.

For drivers who take prescription medicines, it’s important to do everything possible to reduce the risk of being charged with impaired driving. Some important steps to take include ensuring all taillights are working and that the car is in otherwise good repair. Be respectful, but record the traffic stop on a smartphone. Finally, do not answer any questions. Contact an experienced lawyer for advice instead.

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