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Is Drugged Driving Overtaking Drunk Driving in West Virginia?

Earlier this year, the Governors Highway Safety Association sounded an alarm when it cited national data indicating that driving under the influence of drugs was becoming a greater threat to public safety than driving under the influence of alcohol. According to the nonprofit association, the most recent national data indicate that drugs were present in the systems of 43 percent of people killed in U.S. highway accidents, while alcohol was present in 37 percent. Jonathan Adkins, the association’s executive director, worries the problem could be even worse. West Virginia’s Metro News quoted him saying, “Unfortunately, a lot of times, for a host of reasons, we don’t get either any test results or we don’t get accurate test results and so this is an underreported problem.”

However, the mere presence of drugs in a person’s blood is not necessarily an indicator of impairment, and there is no “quick and easy test to determine impairment,” according to Adkins. Often, a combination of drugs or a combination of drugs with alcohol can lead to impairment, but results can vary from driver to driver. As Adkins warns, “In West Virginia, it’s not just one or two drugs, it’s more like four or five drugs that people in the state are using and then getting behind the wheel.”

But, because driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) is harder to measure, it is harder for law enforcement officers to discern and harder for authorities to prosecute. In West Virginia, only about 30 officers have specific training in the identification of drugged driving, but that is going to change: West Virginia is one of five states sharing a $100,000 grant to pay for additional training.

If you are arrested for drugged driving, you are subject to West Virginia’s strict implied consent law. So, you must provide a sample for chemical testing or forfeit your license. However, the results may not be as cut and dried as a test of blood alcohol content. Of course, if the drugs in your system are illegal, a DUID charge is just one of your problems.

But it’s also possible to be impaired from drugs that are perfectly legal with a prescription or freely available over the counter. If you are taking any medication, you should read the label carefully to determine if impairment is possible or likely. Talk to your pharmacist about drug interactions and possible interactions of your medication with alcohol. You don’t want to be caught unaware out on the road, and you certainly don’t want to be pulled over or suffer an accident.

The Giatras Law Firm, PLLC represents drivers charged with DUI and DUID throughout West Virginia. Call us for a free consultation, or contact our Charleston office online.