We hear a lot about how drinking and driving is illegal and dangerous, but what about drugged driving? As a motorist, you may be confused about the laws. Can you get in trouble for taking prescription drugs before driving? What about marijuana, since it is legal for medicinal purposes in New York?
Drugs and alcohol both cause impairment, and driving while impaired is illegal in New York and the other 49 states. This is true even in states where marijuana use is legal. However, marijuana use while driving is on the rise.
Alcohol and marijuana behave in the same way. Both are considered depressants that slow down the nervous system. They impact judgment and slow down reaction times, making car accidents more likely to occur. Prescription drugs often cause drowsiness and dizziness, which can also be dangerous. Stimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine tend to cause reckless behavior while driving.
Drugged Driving is Dangerous
There are myths that marijuana is not a dangerous drug. While it may not lead to death like heroin, cocaine, and opioids, it can lead to impairment. In fact, marijuana users are more likely to be involved in a car crash than drivers who do not use the drug. Studies show that cognitive functions and motor skills are negatively affected by marijuana use. Marijuana users also experience difficulty concentrating and multitasking, which are important skills for drivers.
Opioid use while driving is also dangerous. Opioid users experience impaired judgment as well as drowsiness. The risk of being involved in a car accident is doubled for opioid users.
New York Laws
In New York, a person can be charged with driving while ability impaired (DWAI) if they engage in drugged driving. A person must actually be impaired by the drugs in order to be arrested. Presence of drugs in one’s system is not enough for an arrest.
Under New York law, impairment is defined as the inability to operate a vehicle as a “reasonable and prudent” driver. It is possible to be charged with drugged driving without actually driving. A person can be arrested simply by starting the engine of the car. The car does not have to be in motion in order for police to make an arrest.
As a result, impairment can be subjective. Unlike alcohol, there is no instrument or process to gauge one’s levels of intoxication. If a police officer sees a driver run a stop sign, drive recklessly, or slur their words, that could be enough to justify an arrest and drugged driving charge. Law enforcement may also order a driver to submit to urine, blood, or saliva testing, and drivers must consent under the law.
Get Hurt? Get Gary!
Drugs and alcohol have the same effects on drivers. A person who chooses to drive after using marijuana and other drugs can cause serious accidents.
If you or a loved one was a victim, seek help from the Falkowitz Law Firm. We will fight for you every step of the way and hold the drugged driver liable for their actions. To schedule a free consultation, call 844-GET-GARY.
Gary P. Falkowitz is the Managing Partner and Founding Attorney of the Falkowitz Law Firm PLLC‚ one of the premiere personal injury law firms in New York. Gary received his J.D., in 2005 from St. John’s University School of Law and served as an Assistant District Attorney with the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.