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Illegal, legal drugs can impair driving skills

Arizona motorists who drive after taking or using drugs may face the same consequences as if they had driven after drinking. A drug is any substance that alters a person's mind. Most people may think of illicit drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, when the term 'drugged driving" is used, but it also refers to prescription and over-the-counter drugs that impact how a person functions.

An estimated 9.9 million people drove after taking illicit drugs in 2012, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Another 28.7 million persons reported driving at least once after drinking alcohol in 2012. Both types of substances impair people's abilities to drive cars, which can cause car accidents that may have fatal consequences.

It is difficult to determine how many drugged drivers cause accidents because drug usage is not tested as often or as comprehensively as is alcohol in the blood. In 2009, about 18 percent of drivers killed in car accidents had at least one drug in their bloodstream. Marijuana is the most common drug found in the bloodstream, and is second only to alcohol. Pain killers and sleeping pills may also be found in the blood.

People who drive after taking drugs not only put themselves at risk for car accidents, but also passengers in their cars and anyone else on the road. These people may be injured or even killed in accidents, shattering not only their lives but the lives of their loved ones. Victims of accidents caused by another's negligence may be eligible for compensation through personal injury claims. If they are killed, their survivors may be eligible for compensation, including burial benefits, through a wrongful death claim.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse , "DrugFacts: Drugged Driving", December 28, 2014

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