In Orange County, it is becoming increasing clear that drivers who are under the influence are not necessarily just too drunk to drive. In fact, three departments across California have implemented a drug recognition program for officers to help them more easily identify those who are under the influence of different drugs and what drugs specifically are likely causing the problem. Fullerton Police Department was one of those three, and the newly trained officers are working to train others so they may also apply their expertise in the field.
Sergeant Jon Radus is with Fullerton Police Department. He said that when it comes to drugged driving, there has been a “huge increase in it. In fact, just recently the amount of people arrested for DUI alcohol has been eclipsed by those arrested for DUI drugs.”
This statement is supported by the stats. A report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association showed that while 37 percent of drivers who were involved in fatal car accidents tested positive for alcohol, 43 percent tested positive for use of a legal or illegal drug.
While the 12-Step test that officers are learning through the drug recognition program will help them to identify the use of drugs that fall into one of seven categories, it is not a failsafe for drivers, under the influence or otherwise.
Is driving while high, drunk, or buzzed an ongoing problem for someone you love?
There is no justification for getting behind the wheel while under the influence of any substance, but it is likely that your loved one will have a few attempts at justifying their behavior. Common excuses include:
- “I wasn’t that far from home.” About a third of all accidents occur within one mile of home, so this excuse doesn’t work.
- “I’ve done it before. I do it all the time.” Statistically speaking, if someone has already repeatedly gotten behind the wheel while intoxicated and not yet had an accident, it is arguable that they are due.
- “I only do it when it’s an emergency.” There is no emergency that justifies getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, even if someone is hurt or gravely injured. It certainly won’t help them if they get into an accident on the way to the hospital. It is far better to call for help and standby.
- “I drive better when I’m drunk/high because I’m paying closer attention.” Nope. Study after study shows that reflexes are slowed, awareness is impaired, and vision and hearing are compromised after even minimal use of drugs and alcohol, such that the driver is no longer able to quickly and accurately response to road conditions.
No matter what, there is no reason for getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. Lyft and Uber are always available, and it is far better for your loved one to pay for a cab ride and a car tow than to pay exorbitant medical bills, total their car, get arrested, or worst of all, end their own or someone else’s life.
When DUI Is a Red Flag for Treatment
The moment that someone is impaired to the point that they can justify getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking or drug use is the moment it is time to consider the option of treatment. Unless this is one of many signs that drug treatment is necessary, the individual may first attempt to stop all use of drugs and drinking on their own. (If the person has a physical dependence on alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opioids, medical detox is required.) If that doesn’t work, then it is time to seek treatment that can address:
- Physical withdrawal symptoms
- Mental health issues, including co-occurring mental health disorders
- Underlying medical ailments
- Stress in important family relationship issues
- Circumstantial need (e.g., safe housing, healthcare, employment, etc.)
If your family member is struggling with addiction, it’s time to speak up and help them connect with treatment to help them heal. Drugged driving can be life-shattering for you, your loved one, your family, and everyone else on the road, and it is not an issue to take lightly or just hope it will pass in time.
What can you do to help your loved one struggling with drugged or drunk driving to connect with a comprehensive drug addiction treatment program?