There have been dozens of campaigns aimed at informing the American public about the dangers of drunk driving; the NHTSA, CDC, MADD, and various other national agencies have put a great deal of time, money and effort into education, and it is helping people all over the country recognize the problem. Still, many people don’t fully understand the similar dangers that are associated with drugged driving, especially when those drugs are prescribed by their doctors. Illinois’ recent medical marijuana law has sparked a heated debate about the hazards of driving while under the influence of drugs, but experts claim that millions of people are already impaired by perfectly legal drugs everyday.
The main problem with driving while using prescription drugs is that very few people recognize that they are doing anything wrong in the first place. Compared to the amount of anti-drunk driving messages we see every day, drugged driving often falls by the wayside, and this puts everyone on the road at risk. Just like alcohol, drugs have a deleterious affect on the brains ability to process and react to information, and in some cases they are every bit as dangerous. According to the director of medical toxicology at the North Shore University Health System, the mixing of pain management medications such as morphine and Valium with other drugs is particularly dangerous. This is because these drugs depress the central nervous system, slowing down reaction time and impairing judgment. This can create a multitude of serious issues for drivers, such as hindering their capacity to multitask, as well as altering their perception and coordination. (Chicago Tribune, National Institute on Drug Abuse)
Experts are quick to point out that opioid painkillers, when used alone and at the appropriate dose, can actually aid a driver by reducing their pain. However, the mixing of drugs creates a synergistic affect, turning the combination into a cocktail that intensifies both medications. According to anesthesiologists from the University of Chicago, doubling the dosage of a drug can be a case of “one plus one equals three.” Unfortunately, there is no real criterion for physicians and patients to follow when it comes to driving while on prescription drugs. There is a huge demographic in our country who need to operate a vehicle everyday in order to get to work, but also require painkillers and other prescription drugs in order to live a normal life. For this reason, this is a subject rarely discussed in doctors’ offices, and is something that needs to be addressed and evaluated.
Whether it is currently being addressed or not, the potential for prescription drug impairment while driving is very real, and so are the injuries that it can cause. Our lawyers know how to navigate the often tricky landscape of drugged driving lawsuits. We have reached fair accident settlements for many clients, and if you have been a victim we may be able to help you too.