The United States is in the grips of a full-fledged opioid epidemic. Opioid overdoses killed 47,600 people in 2017. That’s a 250 percent increase from 2007, and that number is on the rise. The epidemic has hit Massachusetts particularly hard, with opioid-related deaths in the state towering above the national average.
But opioids don’t only kill those who abuse them, drivers impaired by opioids are a danger on our roadways.
Drugged driving facts
Opioids are known to cause drowsiness and slow cognitive function, both risk factors in car accidents.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that opioid usage significantly increased the chances of causing a fatal car accident, and other studies have found that drivers using opioids are more than twice as likely to be in a crash.
According to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 16 percent of all drivers killed in car accidents in 2016 tested positive for opioids. Furthermore, 19.7 percent of all motorists pulled over for impaired driving had opioids in their systems.
Laws against drugged driving
While Massachusetts law dictates that you cannot drive with a blood alcohol concentration over .08 percent, there is no measurable impairment level when it comes to drugs. Still, the law states it is illegal to drive while impaired by “narcotic drugs.”
Though there are no quick tests to detect a driver impaired by opioids, Massachusetts police employ the use of “drug recognition experts,” police officers specially trained in detecting drugged drivers.
Massachusetts treats operating under the influence (OUI) of drugs the same as drunk driving. If pulled over by a police officer who has reasonable suspicion that you are impaired, implied consent laws stipulate that you may be required to submit to a blood or breath test. Refusing to do so could result in a license suspicion or even a separate criminal charge.
If pulled over and charged with drugged driving, you may want to seek legal help. Opioids and other drugs can stay in your system for long periods of time, even after their effects wear off. An attorney can advise you in your case and help you to seek the best path going forward.