With so much media attention on drunk driving, it is easy to forget that other forms of impairment are also putting Kentucky drivers at risk.
According to the Washington Post, 2015 was the first year in which drugged driving caused more traffic fatalities than drunk driving. This is part of a larger opioid epidemic which has caused a public health crisis across the United States.
WLWT.com reported earlier this year that Kentucky law enforcement officers were receiving additional training to help them properly identify drugged drivers – not always as straightforward a task as identifying drunk drivers. Drugs effect people differently according to the individual's chemical makeup and a simple drug test won't necessarily tell the officer whether a driver is impaired or how recently the drug was consumed.
Business Insider reports that the governors of Arizona, Florida, and Maryland have all declared states of emergency, in order to gain them access to federal grant moneys through the Department of Health and Human Services.
Why it is So Difficult to Stop Drugged Driving
Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health reports that the number of opioid-impaired drivers who caused fatal traffic accidents increased seven times between 1995 and 2015. The developing nature of this public health crisis has made it difficult to enforce impaired driving laws. Driving under the influence of drugs is a violation of Kentucky criminal laws.
Section 189A.010 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes prohibits drivers from being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of any substance which impairs one’s driving ability. However, like most other states, Kentucky has not been able to set a blood level at which impaired driving can be inferred. Researchers have not yet been able to confidently assess the point at which humans are likely to be impaired by such drugs – the way they have with alcohol. This makes it more difficult for officers to establish probable cause that a driver is impaired by drugs. The Illinois Herald-Review interviewed officers to learn more about the challenges faced by drug recognition experts. One such DRE reported that he is often called to a scene when the suspect’s blood alcohol content does not match his or her observed level impairment. This guesswork makes it difficult for officers to enforce the law, and it also jeopardizes the important constitutional rights of those defendants who are suspected of impaired driving. Both sides deserve a better solution to this problem.
The inexact nature of drug impairment also makes it more difficult for prosecutors to prosecute charges of impaired driving. Without set blood levels to establish impairment, a jury must generally infer it from testimony about the driver’s behavior. Medical expert witnesses are extremely limited in the effects of impairment to which they may testify. Without set limits, testimony that a driver should have been impaired is entirely speculative, and generally inadmissible.
Despite these challenges to enforcing impaired driving laws, accident victims still have the right to be compensated for injuries caused by impaired driving. After any auto accident, impaired drivers must be held accountable for their dangerous – and often criminal – conduct. If you've been hurt by an impaired driver, make sure to contact a Louisville auto accident attorney as soon as possible to protect your legal rights.