View Full Version : U.S. says "drugged driving" growing threat
03-11-10, 09:32 PM
Wed Mar 10, 2010 6:50pm EST
VIENNA (Reuters) - Motorists under the influence of drugs are a growing threat on U.S. roads, while the number who drink and drive has fallen thanks to education and law enforcement, a top U.S. drug control official said on Tuesday.
The United States is calling for discussions at United Nations level to tackle "drugged driving" and says it wants to collect data to gauge the scale of the problem among public sector drivers and commercial truckers.
"If you think about driving on an American road on a Friday or Saturday evening about 16 percent of the vehicles - one in six of the cars - (the driver) will be under the influence of an illicit or licit drug," Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, said.
"Drugged driving is a significant problem." he told reporters at a week-long U.N. drug policy review meeting.
Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief, said figures showed one of the main problems was with people using marijuana and then getting behind the wheel.
But he said in a statement to the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) meeting in Vienna that both illicit drugs and prescription or other pharmaceutical drugs could cause severe problems on the road.
He described the way in which "drugged driving" hampered judgment, reaction time, driving skills and memory and called for the issue to be debated as an official topic at the next CND meeting in 2011.
He also said the United States' new drug control strategy, to be published in several weeks, will focus more efforts on prevention and treatment of drug abuse while continuing to clamp down on drug trafficking domestically and internationally.
In a separate briefing Kerlikowske's Russian counterpart praised bilateral anti-drug efforts under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, particularly in Afghanistan.
"We can say (joint) activity has been intensified (now)," Victor Ivanov, head of the Russian Anti-Narcotics Service told journalists. Russia is the world's largest heroin consumer.
He said the two countries had agreed to conduct operations on certain facilities in Afghanistan, producer of over 90 percent of the world's opium, which fuels a $65 billion illegal market and helps fund the insurgent Taliban.
Ivanov said Russian and U.S. authorities had also exchanged names of people working in the drug trade in Afghanistan that they wanted to target.
In California the penalties for driving under the influence of drugs (including over the counter & prescription) can be as harsh or harsher than DUI for alcohol. I know this, sadly, first hand.
In Dec 2000 i was still firmly in the pharma camp & believing most of what the docs told me. I had a Rx that was badly prescribed. It didn't make me drowsy, but it did screw with my reaction time & i was in a minor fender-bender.
Because the state then had access to my medical records, they made an arbitrary decision (not justified) to suspend my license & i ended up losing it for 18 months. First time DUI for alcohol is a 3 month suspension. I had to fight very hard to get my license back.
It turns out that anything that has a warning about "operating heavy machinery" whether an OTC like Benadryl or a Rx scripted by the doctor carries the same penalties as under the influence of alcohol. BUT this is not information passed on or taught anywhere that i can find. Doctors do not tell patients this (they may not know), pharmacists do not inform patients, Mothers Against Drunk Driving do not inform people either. I believe EVERY pharmacy should have a HUGE poster that says, "If your Rx bottle warns about 'operating heavy machinery' you are liable for the same penalities as driving under the influence of alcohol."
I feel like i've become a one woman crusade on this issue (tho i'd much rather forget it & leave it behind me). I know of a woman who had an accident in our tiny town caused by the meds she was on. I asked her if she got a DUI for it & her response (i don't find her very pleasant) was a very superior, "Of course not! My doctor prescribed it!" I told her she was very lucky & it was probably the small town & lack of police coverage that let her off.
People are amazed when i tell them they can get a DUI for meds the same as if they were drinking. The education is JUST NOT OUT THERE. They say, "But it is over the counter!" or "But my doctor prescribed it!" No one is telling them this is serious.
What is more, it has the potential to screw with your whole life.
MADD is a very strong lobby. The original penality when i had the DUI in 2000 (well, the case was finished in 2001, i still have a little more than a year it will be on my record) was to remain 7 years on my record. MADD got CA to ammend this law & make it 10 years - retroactively! That means that folks who had it off their records - who had NOT reoffended - had it put back on their records for an additional 3 years. This is punative & nothing more. I've no problem with the 10 years - but you have to apply it to new offenders NOT to people who have already been "sentenced." This also means that if, say 10 years down the line, MADD convinces them to put it on people's records for 25 years, or for life, it will happen. The people need not re-offend, but they are branded. (I have not reoffended. Thankfully i now walk a path of no meds, not even tylenol or aspirin.)
If you look at the history of MADD, it has become as bad in some ways as some of the large corporate lobbies. Now, i understand the reasoning for why they exist. And that is justified. Part of my penality was having to attend AA meetings (i won't say i'm an alcoholic however, because i do not drink & never have) & also a MADD meeting where people told their stories about having been harmed by someone driving DUI. The MADD meeting was particularly enlightening. There were 1,000 people there in the court-ordered meeting. One of 5 that meet simultaneously in Orange County monthly. The people around me were treating it as a joke & talked about how many times they drove drunk before being caught. This is serious & it is offensive for folks who have had their lives ruined because someone thought it funny to drive drunk. I take these things very seriously. That said, however, the lobby of MADD is out of control.
It is just as serious that people are driving after taking meds & not being aware of how it effects them or what serious consequences it has. MADD is doing nothing about this, nor is anyone else.
Frankly, i'd prefer to forget the whole thing. I don't like to remember those days. But as long as the info is not being passed on, i feel that keeping silent is not a choice.
03-12-10, 01:16 PM
Thank you for that info, Katee. I wish I knew of a way to publicize it. If you can direct me to a site or a blog, I'll put it on my Facebook page.
Ok, they have changed the laws since 2001. It now is a six months suspension. Here is a CA State Website (http://dui.drivinglaws.org/california.php) info on DUI.
I skimmed thru it, however, i did not find one reference on this page to Rx meds or OTC meds, except in mentioning under 21 drivers. It is all focused on alcohol. However, again, i know first hand that meds are included. Sorry, Islander, again: this is not information passed on or taught anywhere that i can find.
As for info on MADD - Wikipedia gives a history (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mothers_Against_Drunk_Driving). The founder of MADD left eventually because the organization took a turn from trying to prevent drunk driving to trying to push a zero tolerance for alcohol. From that article:
Radley Balko argued in a December 2002 article that MADD's policies are becoming overbearing. "In fairness, MADD deserves credit for raising awareness of the dangers of driving while intoxicated. It was almost certainly MADD's dogged efforts to spark public debate that effected the drop in fatalities since 1980, when Candy Lightner founded the group after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver," Balko wrote. "But MADD is at heart a bureaucracy, a big one. It boasts an annual budget of $45 million, $12 million of which pays for salaries, pensions and benefits. Bureaucracies don't change easily, even when the problems they were created to address change."
I don't deny that the original intent of MADD was good. But they have become a big lobby that is out of control. But, here is the webpage for MADD (http://www.madd.org/). Again, neither in the Wiki article nor at the MADD webpage do i see anything regarding drugs.
Another CA page on DUI (http://www.dmv.ca.gov/dl/driversafety/dsalcohol.htm). From reading it, i would have been better off to refuse testing & accept a 1 year suspension. It wouldn't have remained on my license for 7/10 years & i would have had my license back sooner.
Here is the info (http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/dui/reportability.htm) on when the DUI law changed from 7 years to 10. It went into effect on 1 Jan 2007. From this website:
I have been getting a “good driver” discount on my car insurance ever since my 1998 DUI went off my record in 2005. Will I still qualify for this discount?
A. Unfortunately, no. Under the new law, you may not qualify for a good driver discount again until 2008, 10 years from the date of your DUI violation. You may want to contact your insurance representative if you have additional questions regarding your insurance premiums.
Will an exception to the new law be made if an individual has no tickets or violations after the DUI offense?
A. No, the 10-year reporting period applies to all non-commercial drivers, even those who maintain a clean driving record thereafter.
I drive for my employer. I’m afraid I will lose my job if my employer finds out I had a DUI in 1998. The DUI did not appear on my DMV printout that I provided to my employer nine months ago when I was first hired.
A. It will be up to your employer to determine if the DUI will affect your employment. You may want to discuss your concerns with your employer.
Also, i learned from this article:
. . . a conviction for a major violation committed in a commercial vehicle (e.g. DUI) will be retained for a period of 55 years on a CDL record . . .
Now, this makes sense to me for a commercial vehicle, i suppose, although 55 years seems excessive. But what, if in the future, MADD pushes to impose this on ALL drivers with a history of DUI? It doesn't matter that there has been no relapse/recidivism. Can you say this is NOT punative?
Sorry, this is one deep thorn for me. These websites say that the courts take into account individual cases, but it was not so for me. The judge heard "DUI" & would not talk to my attorney. I learned later that she'd lost a daughter to a DUI driver. I feel for her, i do, but i don't believe she should have been sitting on my case.
"This is your Maurya. This is your Maurya on her soapbox." While I do not think that driving while drunk or while taking any drugs is in any way a good idea, this is a human made problem that has been developing for a long time. This falls under the category of "you can't have it both ways". We the people, have been brainwashed or trained to accept any drug that is prescribed or recommended by a medical doctor, and then told to "just say no" to any such drug that is recommended by someone other that the medical doctor. As close as I can tell, if I were to obtain my drugs from the nice young man down on the street corner, he has an agenda which is quite open: he desires to make money. On the other hand, if I were to obtain my drugs from the nice young man/woman who has six figure student loans to pay off, his/her agenda is much more obscure and complex, but still amounts to the same thing, except that his/her drug prices are significantly higher. Each one of these nice MD individuals seems to have their favorite hobby horse of diseases, drugs, and issues that they have chosen to pursue. Don't like the agenda that this one presents?...just find another MD and see or hear a different agenda.
Thank you, Katee, for sharing these alarming facts about the self perpetuating bureaucracy known as MADD. I have for quite a while suspected that they have taken a good idea, and have gone off the deep end with it. My concerns and thoughts are with you, as you attempt to deal with the obstreperous California legal structure. Perhaps I am glad I left the state when I did so. :)
03-13-10, 05:57 PM
I agree Katee. I know of several people who have gotten DUI tickets for driving while taking prescription drugs. These drugs were not being abused and in at least one case I know, the person who got charged didn't even cause the accident but a bully state trooper told her she either had to take a blood test or go to jail because he thought her speech was slightly slurred. I know this lady and she has a strong accent, not slurred speech. She's been driving on Lor Tab for many many years. This was her only accident in all that time. Yes, if you are impaired you need to be off the road. If your body has built up a tolerance and you are not impaired, you have a right to live your life.
With all that said, there are many many many many drugs where you should not be behind the wheel, period and there are warnings on the Rx labels. I know I sound like I'm taking both sides and I am, lol. If you are impaired, then don't drive. If you have doubts, have a friend be honest with you about coordination, reflexes, speech etc. For example, I would more readily drive on morphine than phenergan. I react much less to the former.
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