Drunk and drugged driving is a leading cause of car accidents in Maryland
Being involved in a crash with an impaired driver be it under the influence of alcohol or drugs, can be a life-altering event. The impaired driver usually does not realize their reaction time or skills have been impacted until it’s too late and they lose control of the car resulting in a serious accident. In many cases, the driver does not even recall what happened immediately before impact.
In many cases, even those who survive crashes with impaired drivers end up with severe injuries, some of which last a lifetime. This includes:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Bone fractures
- Spinal injuries
- Neck injuries
- Lacerations, bruises and contusions
Why is driving impaired so dangerous?
It takes a certain level of mental alertness, coordination, control and ability to anticipate or perceive dangers or rules of the road in order operate a motor vehicle safely. When drivers are impaired by drugs or alcohol, they lose their ability to stay focused and in control, and that 4 to 6000+ pound piece of steel they are driving becomes a potential lethal weapon to all in their path.
It does not take much to cause impairment. According to the NHTSA, those who have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level within the legal limit (below 0.08 percent) in many instances are in fact impaired. For example, drivers with a BAC of 0.02 percent may experience some reaction deficits and drowsiness, and in turn a slight decline in judgment. While this BAC number is not illegal or generally a problem, it can be dangerous if a driver is drowsy or is lacking any of their key faculties needed to operate a car safely, and take evasive action.
A drink or two can be enough to contribute to a drowsy driving or a late or over reaction resulting in a loss of control. At a BAC of 0.05 percent, it becomes more dangerous to drive. This is considered “buzzed driving,” where drivers experience decreased alertness, loss of judgment, slowed reaction time and some loss of physical coordination. The effects of alcohol become more pronounced once drivers reach a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, and the mere act of driving at this level of intoxication is enough to cause a significant negative force on reaction time, judgment and perception of the driver.
Also, keep in mind one’s BAC may still be rising several hours after alcohol is consumed, so the dangerous effects may last several hours. The amount of impairment is also impacted by one’s weight and metabolism, which makes it hard to establish a strict standard or level of intoxication as to how much consumption of alcohol will effect different persons and impair their ability to drive. For example, a person who weighs 120 pounds will be much more likely to be impacted by 2 drinks than a person who weighs 180 pounds.
The bottom line, keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum if you are driving as it’s not only your life that you place in danger.
The dangers of driving under the influence of drugs
Drugs impact driving in the many of same ways as alcohol. Both effects one’s ability to be fully alert and in control. Many recreational drugs, such as marijuana, opioids and other medications may have a alter the mind, and cause things like reaction time, perception e.g. speed, distance, to be off. Unlike many other states, marijuana is not legal in Maryland, but possession and use of certain levels (under 10 grams) have been decriminalized meaning one will not go to jail for possession of this amount or less. Marijuana has also been decriminalized (in very small quantities) in Virginia; and is actually legal in small quantities in the District of Columbia. This of course has led to wider spread recreational and social use by drivers, which in turn has its impact on the safety of roadways we travel daily. Consequently, if you live or travel in Maryland or the DMV where it is legal or easier to access these drugs you may be more likely to encounter another driver who may be under the influence and cause you harm.
Prescription drugs are also a common cause of driver impairment, particularly those used as pain relievers (Opiods), muscle relaxers and to treat anxiety or insomnia. Over-the-counter medications used to relieve cold and flu symptoms can also cause drowsiness, loss of physical coordination and lowered alertness. That is why many of these drugs have been reclassified and are now stored for sale behind the pharmacy counter.
How can I take legal action if I was injured by an impaired driver?
If you were injured in a crash with a drunk or drugged driver, you need an experienced Maryland car accident attorney on your side who will fight to hold the responsible party accountable and maximize your compensation.
You may be entitled to compensation for current and future medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment and other damages. In addition, your attorney may fight for punitive damages against the at-fault driver depending on whether he/she has a record of such behavior or knew they planned to drive before they drank the alcohol or consumed the drug. While punitive damages do not reimburse you for any losses, they do punish the at-fault driver and send a clear message to society that drunk and drugged driving will not be tolerated.
To learn more about your legal options, contact the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick, LLC and schedule your free consultation.