2013 is almost history, and 2014 is ready to open. As we prepare to celebrate New Year's Eve, our Panama City injury law firm reminds community members to include safety in your plans. While safety messages for the evening often focus on the danger of drunk driving, we'd like to expand the message beyond alcohol. The threat of driving under the influence includes a wide-range of legal and illicit substances that can impair driving ability. Drugged driving endangers the driver, other passengers, and everyone else on the roads. It is a threat we take seriously at the Pittman Firm and, while we are always here to help those injured by impaired drivers in Northwest Florida, we believe that prevention is always the best option.
Sadly, illicit drugs remain a problem in our community. WMBB recently spoke with the Washington County Sherriff's Office following the arrest of a Fountain man following a traffic stop on Orange Hill Road. A deputy pulled the driver over after noticing that the vehicle's lights were not functioning. During the resulting stop, the officer noticed the driver's behavior included several physical indicators suggesting involvement in illegal activity. The driver gave consent allowing the officer to search the vehicle, and the search uncovered a pill bottle and cigarette pack that both contained several pills, a baggy that contained a substance later confirmed to be methamphetamines, and rolling papers.
A recording of the search also captured the driver's attempt to dispose of evidence discovered by the officer. The officers recovered that evidence and arrested the driver, 46-year-old Gregory Eugene Edmondson of Fountain, on charges including tampering with evidence, trafficking in hydrocodone, various drug possession counts, and driving with a suspended or revoked license.
Commenting on the threat of drugged driving, the National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that, just like drunk driving, driving under the influence of any psychoactive (mind-altering) drug is both illegal and unsafe. The exact effects vary with the type of drug, but all impair faculties that are crucial for safe driving, such as motor skills, coordination, perception, judgment, attention span, and reaction time.
In some cases, even a small dose can cause significant impairment. Substances cited as contributing to traffic accidents include marijuana, opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines. Pain relievers and sleep medications are among the legal prescription drugs that can impair driver behavior.
In 2012, a National Survey on Drug Use and Health report estimated that 10.3 million people ages 12 and older drove under the influence of illicit drugs in the previous year. This represents 3.9% of adolescents and adults, a figure higher than the 2011 rate (3.7%) but lower than 2002's estimate (4.7%).
Another study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") in 2007 found that more than 16% of drivers during weekend nighttime hours tested positive for some form of illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs, with 11% testing positive for illicit substances. Inconsistent testing policies make it difficult to pinpoint how many accidents can be attributed to intoxicants other than alcohol, but one 2009 NHTSA study concluded 18% of fatally-injured drivers had at least one drug in their system (up from 13% in 2005).
We hope 2013 is remembered as a happy one for you and yours, and that 2014 holds even more joy. Be safe, be well, and avoid impaired driving in all forms. Prevention will always be our first message, but our Panama City personal injury law firm will be here in case someone else's decisions leave you or your loved one facing a traffic injury.