Prescription Pills Increasingly Common Contributor in Crashes

Auto accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight a troubling trend among American drivers – taking prescription drugs before getting behind the wheel. Some are even mixing pills with alcohol before driving, leading to an increase catastrophic crashes and loss of life throughout the country.

26-year-old Shauna Miller was leaving work on a recent night in Las Vegas when she caused a drug-and-alcohol-fueled crash that killed a man and his 2-year-old son. Miller admitted to mixing prescriptions and beer that night before she slammed into their car at a local intersection. A Metro Police Sergeant stated that his police force, along with those around the country, is implementing rigorous training programs to detect signs of prescription impairment.

As a result of these new training programs, the number of drivers being arrested for driving under the influence of prescriptions, even without the added alcohol, is steadily increasing. However, many states do not require blood tests at the time of the DUI arrest to quantify the amount of drugs in the individual’s system. For alcohol-related DUIs, the charge can be proven with a breathalyzer test of .08 BAC or higher. For prescription pills, officers can note the signs of impairment and perform field sobriety tests, but the evidence is not as cut-and-dry.

In response, many state law enforcements have recently started to conduct quantitative tests for certain drugs, such as marijuana, Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and GHB. A spokesperson for the Florida Police Department stated that quantitative tests for more drugs will continue to be added. Another thorn in the side of prescription drug DUI convictions is that many of the drivers are prescribed to the drugs legally. States like Nevada have DUI statutes that detail specific quantities of each drug that signify impairment, meaning a certain level of the drug must be present in the driver’s blood or urine for them to be considered under the influence.

For some families, the dangers of prescription abuse are all too real. In 2011, again in Las Vegas, a 42-year-old man was sentenced to eight to 20 years in prison for the death of a trick-or-treater. The man pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of prescription pills and alcohol on Halloween night when he struck and killed the 12-year-old girl on a residential street. He was arrested just a month earlier on a DUI charge for causing another crash in Las Vegas.

Drivers throughout the United States are engaging in increasingly risky behavior on the roads, not limited only to prescription drug use. American drivers – particularly young drivers – continue to text and talk on their cell phones, despite its known significant dangers and recent implementation of laws prohibiting the practice.

Thousand of officers in California are initiating a major crackdown on texting and talking while driving in 2013, although it has been illegal since 2008. California police issued more than 425,000 tickets last year for cell phone use, which is an over 40% increase from 2009. It is texting that concerns police, and the American public, the most. It is surprising that so many drivers continue to text while driving, especially in light of all the recent public awareness and enforcement campaigns throughout the country in the past few years. One CDC study found that nearly 70% of American drivers say they talk on their phone while driving, and about one in three say they text or e-mail.

In 2011, more than 3,000 people died and 400,000 were injured in the United States in crashes caused by drivers who were using their phones while driving. Some studies show that a texting driver can travel the length of a football field, going 55 miles per hour, without looking at the road. In fact, it was recently found that drivers who text while drive are operating their vehicles with the same skill as someone driving with a .10 BAC, which is significantly over the legal limit.

Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge American drivers to become more aware of the very real risks of driving while impaired, whether that is by alcohol, prescription drugs, or using a cell phone. Crashes caused by impaired drivers take hundreds of thousands of lives per year, nearly all of which are entirely preventable. If you or a loved one was seriously injured through the negligence of another driver, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation.

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