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Tag: Impaired Driving

After a DUI conviction in North Carolina, you license will be suspended for 45 days, during which it is illegal for you to operate a vehicle.  After you serve that suspension, you can apply for limited driving privileges which allow you to drive to work and for essential things such as child care and medical appointments.  

It’s important to note that in addition to applying for the limited driving license with the DMV, you will be required to enroll in and complete a substance abuse evaluation, call your insurance company for a special statement of financial responsibility (called an SR-22 certificate) and, in  some instances, install an ignition interlock in the vehicle you drive. Monitech is headquartered in North Carolina and has been providing residents with reliable interlock devices for over 30 years. Our dedicated state experts can help you with every step of the program, from finding out if you need an interlock to installation, monitoring and license recovery.  

The specific laws related to ignition interlocks can be found in the North Carolina Statutes.  You should ask questions to make sure you understand all the requirements to get you back on the road safely and legally.  

For more general information about alcohol impaired driving arrests in North Carolina, here’s a great article from the Charlotte Observer.   

 

driving with marijuana in your system: legal in Arizona?Complex as alcohol and drunk driving issues are, they can seem simple compared with the challenges that marijuana poses to the legal system. A recent Arizona Court of Appeals decision highlights just how different the two drugs are.

In December the court ruled that medical marijuana patients arrested for driving under the influence of cannabis can contest DUI charges by claiming that they were not too high to operate a vehicle.

It’s a can of worms all right: unlike drivers arrested for being under the influence of booze, those driving with marijuana in their systems who have a medical excuse can claim that they were not impaired to drive. The burden of proving impairment will be on the prosecution.

A breathalyzer gives objective of the amount of alcohol in a person’s system, and that amount has been correlated to impairment. It’s generally agreed that a person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 is too impaired to drive.

No such standard of impairment exists for marijuana yet. Moreover, the drug will stay in the system for days after impairment has vanished, making it difficult to use blood tests for evidence. While no one seriously disputes that pot can make a driver dangerous, it’s been hard establishing links between amounts consumed and impairment. For one thing, pot can be eaten or smoked, which can affect a person differently. Even if the amount taken in is measured carefully, the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, marijuana’s active ingredient) in the blood is hard to correlate to a specific degree of impairment.

Another complication is that marijuana is prescribed by doctors for a number of conditions. On its own that is no excuse for a DUI: you can be arrested for driving under the influence of any prescription drugs which affects your driving ability. But the increasing availability and medical use of marijuana, combined with legal uncertainty of how to prosecute, will doubtless cause confusion in the courts.

What we end up with is a can of worms – complicated cases, dismissals, appeals, and law enforcement officers who are unsure of how to proceed because cases involving driving with marijuana in one’s system are getting thrown out right and left. Eventually it will all be worked out, but not for a while. Meanwhile, Arizona and other states will have to feel their way forward and try to keep the roads safe somehow.

marijuana legalization in arizonaOne of the election battles that was overshadowed by the presidential results this November was marijuana legalization. In the past few years a number of states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, beginning with Colorado and Washington in 2012. On this election day Arizona had its chance, but its citizens voted against legalization, by about 51 to 48 percent.

The question of marijuana legalization is inseparable from the problem of impaired driving, a problem that has been prominent in Arizona’s legal landscape for years.

When the federal government settled on.08 BAC (blood alcohol concentration) as a logical limit for measuring intoxication, not all states fell in line. Only when the feds started withholding highway funds for states that kept a higher limit did the last states grudgingly adopt the .08 limit.

Arizona was among the last, changing theirs in 2001.

Within six years the state had changed its attitude toward drunk driving. In 2007 Arizona became one of the first states to mandate ignition interlocks for all DUI offenses. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Since then Arizona has become a model for other states’ DUI enforcement efforts.

The marijuana question puts everything back on square one. Chief among the problems is detection: how do you know when a person is too impaired by pot to drive?

It might be obvious if the person is truly stoned, but as we know, there is a gray area: a person can appear sober but not be in shape to drive. Coordination, judgement, vision, and other faculties can be compromised in a way that’s not apparent.

The legal minefield is the system for detecting marijuana impairment:  we don’t have one. It’s possible to detect marijuana in the bloodstream, but that doesn’t mean that the subject is impaired. Residue can stay in the system for weeks after using pot. This is very different from alcohol, which is comparatively straightforward: the booze enters the bloodstream, and can be measured as it exits with a breathalyzer.

So the question is, is Arizona ahead of or behind the curve? More and more states are choosing to legalize recreational marijuana, and public safety advocates and other authorities and interest groups disagree over whether or not more impaired driving will result. An AAA study last May found that legal pot led to more fatal crashes involving the substance. But  legalization has not led to sky-high numbers of fatalities yet, so the jury is still out.

Arizona’s citizens, then, opted for caution. At least, 51 percent of them did. If that number changes in the future, then the state will be facing the same problems of detection and prosecution that others now face. In the meantime, illegal marijuana is still being used, and those smokers are also driving, so the problem is on Arizona’s – and every state’s – doorstep anyway.

Everyone is aware that drinking alcohol diminishes one’s ability to drive a car. However, most people are almost completely unaware just how drunk they are. It’s very common to overestimate one’s ability to drive under the influence of alcohol. That’s why so many people surrender their keys far too late.

Let’s take our typical, mythical 160-pound male. If you ask him, “Are you okay to drive?” while he’s drinking, chances are that you’ll get responses like this:

The Perception

1 Drink – Fine, no problem.

2 Drinks – It’s just 2 drinks, I’m fine.

3 Drinks – I’ll be fine if I’m careful. No problem, don’t worry, really.

4 Drinks – Yeah, you have a point, I probably shouldn’t drive.

5 Drinks –  Okay, okay, I’ll take a taxi.

This man, of course, is dreaming. A more realistic set of responses, based on his breath alcohol concentration (BAC), might be the following:

The Reality

1 Drink: (.02 BAC) – I’m probably fine, though my judgment is off a bit.

2 Drinks: (04-05 BAC) – No way. In some countries I’m already considered legally drunk. If I drive now my coordination will be messed up, and if I suddenly need to respond to something on the road, I could easily blow it.

3 Drinks: (.07-.08 BAC) – What was I thinking? My concentration is off, and my muscle coordination isn’t too good. I can’t hear or see as well as I should, and my reaction times are terrible. I won’t even be able to control my speed very well. No way I’m getting behind the wheel.

4 Drinks: (.09 – .10) – Take my keys in case I try anything stupid. I wouldn’t be able to stay in one lane long enough to make it home.

5 Drinks: .11-12 BAC. I’m hammered. Why are we having this conversation?

Sadly, one rarely hears anything like the Reality answers. But they represent a true account of what’s going on in the body of that 160-pound male. Maybe if he reads this, he’ll start relying less on Perception and accept the Reality of how alcohol affects him. If not, he might get a much harsher lesson on the roads.

Your friend is looking woozy, but she’s getting into her car anyway. Like the good pal you are, you try to see what’s going on.

Prescription-Drug-DUI“Are you all right?” you ask.

“Sure,” she says. But she doesn’t look all right.

“You seem kind of tired. Have you had a drink?”

“No way. Are you kidding? I’m on pain meds for my back. They really knock me out.”

“You probably shouldn’t be driving, then.”

“It’s okay.”

“If you’re stopped, you’ll get arrested.”

“No. I’ll show them my prescription.”

A surprising number of people think that a prescription lets them get away with driving impaired. The fact is, in Arizona and every other state, it’s against the law to drive impaired, whether the wooziness is caused by alcohol, a prescription drug, an over-the-counter medicine, or some other substance. A prescription drug DUI is no different from the standard one that you see in the police reports on the news. You’ll be booked, fingerprinted, suspended, and fined. If it’s a second or third offense, penalties increase. And note that having a medical marijuana card will not get you out of an impaired driving charge.

The most common drugs that lead to a DUI are:

  • Pain Medications (Codeine, Vicodin, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxycontin
  • Anxiety Medications: (Valium, Xanax)
  • Sleep Medications (Ambien, Lunesta)

Many other prescription medications can also impair a driver enough to attract the attention of a police officer. Drivers are sometimes under the impression that a prescription is a magic amulet that will ward off an arrest, but the fact is, the police are in the business of taking impaired drivers off the roads. Those medications’ labels warn you against driving for that reason.

Arizonans take note: the safe move is to treat any medicine that comes with a warning like an alcoholic drink. Those pills are to get you well, not to get you arrested, injured, or killed.

Scientist have studied the effects of alcohol for generations. In recent years the rise in the use of cannabis has prompted new studies on the effects of marijuana on health, cognition, and . One thing is certain: neither drug is a good mix with driving. Both alcohol and marijuana impair one’s judgment,  diminish motor coordination, and slow down reaction time.

And what about doing them together? A new study funded by the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) centers around the simultaneous use of alcohol and pot.

Among the disturbing findings was that those who both drank and smoked marijuana were likely to do both at the same time. Moreover, those who smoked marijuana while drinking were likely to drink more than those not smoking.

One particularly sinister finding involved impaired driving. From the abstract:

“…compared to alcohol only, simultaneous use approximately doubled the odds of drunk driving,”

whiskey-glass-transYou don’t need to be a biochemist to know how poorly someone will drive with a system full of both alcohol and marijuana.  The Catch-22 here is that the impaired faculties that make a person a bad driver also make it more likely that he or she will get behind the wheel.

It’s hard to say what the solution is at this point. Awareness is the first step. People need to know that if they smoke pot and drink, they are going to be more tempted than usual to drive. Friends need to be doubly vigilant. Eventually legislators might have to look at special laws and ordinances that deal with the alcohol/pot combination.

It’s early days, but not too early to watch out. If drinking while smoking pot is on your agenda, hand over your car keys first. Science is not on your side.

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