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Car Accidents Resulting From Someone Driving Under The Influence Of Drugs

Car Accidents Resulting From Someone Driving Under The Influence Of Drugs

The dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are well-known. But unfortunately, each day countless motorists still choose to drive while high or drunk. This reckless decision endangers not only the driver, but any other motorists, pedestrians, or cyclists that the driver encounters on the road. When an intoxicated driver causes an accident and other people are injured, those injury victims have legal rights, even more rights than accidents caused by simple negligence or inattention.  Driving under the influence is an example of negligence, and negligent drivers who cause accidents can be held liable for damages in personal injury lawsuits and can be required to pay money as a form of punishment (punitive damages) as well.

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a crash with a driver who was under the influence, the Riverside car accident attorneys of Heiting & Irwin are here to stand by your side, prosecute the case fully, and get the financial compensation you deserve. Since 1976, we have helped our clients recover over $500 million in settlements and verdicts in personal injury cases. Contact us today at 951-682-6400 to learn more about your legal options in a free consultation.

How Common Are Drugs or Alcohol in Car Accidents?

In December 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a new study on the prevalence of drugs and alcohol in serious traffic crashes. According to the study, more than half of those injured or killed had one or more drugs, or alcohol, in their systems at the time of the crash. In addition, about 54% of injured drivers had drugs or alcohol in their systems. (Marijuana was the most common drug found, with alcohol second.)

The study’s authors noted that these results cannot necessarily be used to evaluate drugged driving nationwide. However, they also stressed that the high rates of drivers, passengers, and others on the road being under the influence of drugs is highly concerning. This shows that even those of us who never drive under the influence and who follow all other traffic laws can still become victims of severe or even fatal injuries if we encounter an intoxicated driver on the road.

Drugged Driving Laws in California and Marijuana

California is one of over 20 states that have legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana. Many marijuana users believe that they can safely drive while high, but the data shows that this is not the case. California state law views driving under the influence of marijuana (or any other drug) as the same as driving under the influence of alcohol. If someone is arrested for driving while high, they face the same penalties as a drunk driver. This also applies to prescription and over-the-counter medications that impair driving.

If you were involved in an accident in which the other party(ies) was/were driving under the influence of drugs, you can learn more about your legal options by contacting Heiting & Irwin’s Riverside car accident lawyers.

Drugs Impair Driving Skills

When most people think of drugged driving, they think of marijuana or illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin. However, several different types of drugs can impair your ability to drive safely.

Over the Counter (OTC) Medications

It is a common mistake to think that any OTC medication is safe to take without worrying about major impairments. However, some OTC medications can severely impact driving skills. Some common OTC medications that can cause driving impairment include:

  • Sleep aids
  • Allergy medicines
  • Decongestants
  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Pain relievers with codeine


To date, 23 states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. However, although the drug may be “safe” for use in certain contexts, it is not safe to drive while under the influence of marijuana. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), many of the effects of marijuana can make it difficult to drive safely, such as:

  • Slower reaction time
  • Temporary memory loss
  • Lower coordination
  • Impaired vision
  • Perception distortions
  • Impaired decision-making and problem-solving skills
  • Drowsiness

Prescription Drugs

Doctors sometimes prescribe medications that are helpful to certain conditions they are treating but that make it unsafe to drive (and they may not warn you!). The doctor should always advise patients on these adverse effects, and patients should also make sure to ask about these effects (but they don’t). Some common types of prescription medications that can impair driving include:

  • Opioids
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Antidepressants
  • ADHD medications
  • Many, many others

Liability For Drugged Driving Accidents

Liability for accidents involving drugged drivers is also handled the same as liability in drunk driving cases. Driving under the influence constitutes at least negligence, and could carry criminal implications as serious as a murder charge, regardless of whether the intoxicant in question was alcohol or another drug. We all have a legal duty to drive as safely as possible, and driving under the influence is a gross transgression of this legal duty. When the decision to drive under the influence of drugs causes an accident and others are injured, those injured people may have grounds for a personal injury claim (possibly including punitive damages) against the drugged driver.

Contact Our Riverside Car Accident Attorneys

If you were recently injured in a crash involving someone driving under the influence of drugs, you have legal rights. The car accident lawyers At Heiting & Irwin, our Riverside car accident lawyers, help our clients fight for the full financial compensation they are entitled to for damages related to their injuries. Contact us today at 951-682-6400 to learn more about filing a personal injury claim against a drugged driver.

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