When we hear that someone is caught for a DUI, we usually assume that the person was driving under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or a combination of both.
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At its most basic form, however, a DUI simply means driving while impaired by any substance – which can even include legal drugs you’d find in your bathroom’s medicine cabinet.
Some prescriptions and over the counter medicines are powerful enough to impair your ability to safely operate a vehicle – and many even say so right on the label. Many of these legal drugs cause you to feel drowsy and can impair your ability to react quickly or stay in your lane. Common legal drugs that can impair one’s driving ability include stimulants, sedatives, antidepressants, and narcotic analgesics.
The biggest issue facing legal drug DUIs is the lack of any method of assessing impairment.
When someone is driving under the influence of alcohol, his or her blood-alcohol level can be measured in numerical form. When it comes to legal drugs, and even illegal ones, there is no method in place for accurately assessing the level of driver impairment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a report which stated that approximately 16 percent of nighttime drivers have at least one potentially impairing drug in their system.
The NHTSA is currently involved in a study with a panel of experts to develop methods for assessing impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs – both legal and illegal. Until then, police have the ability to give DUIs and even make arrests on suspicion of a driver being impaired by a drug – whether the person has taken cocaine or a prescribed medicine.
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