On January 23, 2008, 20-year-old Hedaia Madi Carlson and her unborn daughter, Madelynn Nichole, were killed by a drugged driver in Virginia. Because of lax drugged driving laws, the driver was only charged with reckless driving.
In spite of the evidence, he was back on the streets in no time. Meanwhile, Carlson’s family planned her and her unborn child’s funeral instead of a baby shower.
Because this criminal was drugged, he never had to answer for his crimes. It doesn’t make any sense. Everybody knows the horrific realities of drunk driving. However, when it comes to the deadly crime of drugged driving (DUID), we as a society are in major denial.
The notion that “it’s ok to drive drugged” is alarmingly widespread. The simple truth is that it’s never ok to drive drugged—even if the drugs are legal. After all, alcohol is legal, and yet we have harsh drunk driving sanctions in all fifty states. Just because prescription drugs and marijuana are legal doesn’t mean they don’t impair a person’s ability to drive. Quite the contrary: innocent lives are lost every day as a result of crimes committed by drivers high on legal drugs. Of course, it makes little difference to victims whether their perpetrators are high on legal drugs, illegal drugs, or both drugs and alcohol.
Many states have now passed legislation legalizing marijuana. While these laws may say that marijuana is safe to use, they certainly do not say that it is safe to drive under its influence. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that drivers high on marijuana are “not much of a problem.” But federal government research suggests that marijuana can impair a driver’s abilities for up to three hours, causing decreased car handling performance, increased reaction times, and sleepiness.
The popular opinion about driving under the influence of prescription drugs is just as skewed. While only one in four people see it as a serious threat, prescription drugs were found in 46.5% of drugged drivers involved in fatal crashes. Prescription drugs, even taken as prescribed, can make it difficult for a driver to stay alert, maintain control of their vehicle, and concentrate on the road.
When it comes to illegal drugs, it would seem pretty simple: they’re illegal to use in the first place, so it’s definitely not ok to drive after using them. Be that as it may, more than 11% of drivers test positive for illegal drugs. Because use of illegal drugs is on the rise, we are also seeing an increase in drivers under the influence of heroin, meth, cocaine, and other substances that contribute to deaths on our roadways.
What Are The Facts On Drugged Driving?
Here are some frightening facts about drugged driving:
- About 4000 drivers die each year with drugs in their systems. This doesn't include other victims killed by these drivers.
- Besides alcohol, THC from marijuana is the most common substance found in the blood of car crash victims, fatally injured drivers, and impaired drivers.
- An estimated 22% of drivers are under the influence of over-the-counter, prescription, or illegal drugs.
Considering the facts, you would think that there would be a national crackdown on drugged driving. Sadly, this is not the case. As things currently stand, in many states:
- Drugged drivers frequently escape prosecution, which means
- No conviction, which means
- No punishment or accountability, which means
- No justice for the victim/survivor and no rehabilitation for the perpetrator, which means
- No protection for society
Why Isn’t More Being Done About Drugged Driving?
Whatever form it takes, drugged driving is a major danger. We need to do more and that includes making available tests for law enforcement that can be performed at roadside. We also need to make drugged driving socially unacceptable. That is where you come in.
What Can We Do About Drugged Driving?
There are many things you can do to prevent DUID.
- If you’re taking a prescription, check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure it’s ok to drive.
- If you suspect a friend has just smoked marijuana, don’t let them get behind the wheel.
- Arrange for alternate transportation whenever there is a potentially impaired driver.
- Write your legislator and tell them you want them to take a strong stance against drugged driving.
- Tweet all your friends that you think driving drugged is dumb with the hashtag #dontdrivedumb.
- Let your friends know on Facebook that you will not ride with anyone you suspect is driving drugged.
- Share WeSaveLives.org with your friends, family members, and loved ones, as well as on your social media.
These are simple yet powerful ways to help save lives!