Opioid epidemic partially to blame for danger to motorists
While driving under the influence of alcohol has received plenty of media attention for decades, Massachusetts motorists may be at as much at risk due to a related problem: Driving under the influence of drugs.
According to a recent report from Fox 25 Boston, over the last five years, drugged driving violations have increased by 42 percent in Massachusetts. Over the same time period, drunk driving violations have only increased by 26 percent.
Both recreational and prescription drugs can put motorists in danger for many of the same reasons as alcohol: impaired judgment, slower reflexes and less ability to pay attention to the road. Some drugs can even cause drivers to fall asleep at the wheel, causing devastating collisions when the vehicle drifts into the oncoming lane and the driver fails to even hit the brakes.
And with the growing epidemic of opioid use in Massachusetts, these drugged driving offenses are expected to increase further.
Law enforcement struggles to hold drugged drivers accountable
Because drunk driving has been in the public eye for many years, police have significant resources and procedures at their disposal to help them enforce drunk driving laws. Massachusetts' "implied consent" law means that suspected drunk drivers need to submit to testing or lose their driving privileges, and courts have accepted breathalyzer results as evidence that can lead to criminal convictions.
Law enforcement's ability to enforce drugged driving laws is much more limited. The Fox 25 article noted that marijuana has been legalized in Massachusetts for medicinal purposes - and that there is no "legal limit" for marijuana in a motorist's system. Likewise, there are few unambiguous tests to prove that a driver is under the influence of opiates. While drugged drivers can still be asked to take a field sobriety test or arrested on suspicion of impaired driving, if they can pass a breathalyzer test for alcohol, the police have great difficulty pursuing charges.
Some police departments in Massachusetts are turning to trained Drug Recognition Experts (DRE), police officers certified to recognize the signs of driving under the influence of marijuana, opiates and other drugs. But there are relatively few DREs in Massachusetts, and their findings may be challenged in court. Moreover, the implied consent law does not apply to testing by a DRE, meaning a drugged driver can simply refuse to be tested.
Civil cases may be the best route to hold some drugged drivers accountable
Victims of drugged driving car accidents do have legal options apart from waiting for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to bring criminal charges against the impaired driver. They also have the option of filing a personal injury claim against the at-fau
These cases can be complex and difficult to win. Evidence gathered by police, such as the police accident report, may not be admissible in a civil trial. However, because the burden of proof is lower in civil court than in criminal court, it may be possible for an injured person to recover damages from the at-fault driver even if said driver is acquitted of criminal charges.
An experienced attorney can find the critical evidence needed to prove that the driver who hit you was under the influence of drugs. We'll interview witnesses, collect evidence from the accident scene and review the driver's medical records for any relevant information. And we'll fight for a settlement or verdict that compensates you fairly for all of your losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, damage to your vehicle and any other expense resulting from the accident. In some cases, we're able to pursue punitive damages from drugged drivers, especially those who were under the influence of opioids or other illegal drugs.
If you've been hurt in an accident caused by a drugged driver, give your case an advantage - the Salomone Advantage. Contact the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone for a free consultation. 1-800-WIN-WIN-1.