Why You Could Be “Driving Impaired” Even if You Haven’t Been Drinking

January 11, 2021

Almost everyone is aware that drunk driving is dangerous, but drinking alcohol before getting behind the wheel isn’t the only dangerous activity that can impair your ability to drive.

In fact, you could be “impaired” without taking a single sip of alcohol.  While alcohol impairment is one of the most publicized forms of impairment, it is not the only kind, and it’s not even the most common form of impaired driving. It’s important to know what the other forms of impaired driving are, because they are all dangerous, and you may be impaired without realizing it. 

Drugged Driving

Just as nearly everyone is aware that drunk driving is dangerous, driving while under the influence of drugs is also dangerous. In fact, the CDC estimates drugs other than alcohol are involved in roughly 16% of all motor vehicle crashes.

But this doesn’t just refer to dangerous and illegal street drugs. So-called “harmless” drugs like marijuana, and even over-the-counter medications, can dangerously impair your ability to drive, even if you believe your ability to drive is unaffected (it’s not).

In fact, marijuana users are roughly 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, while other studies show that driving under the influence of opioids such as painkillers can double your risk of being involved in a crash.

If you are currently taking any prescription or over-the-counter medication, check the warning label. If it states, “do not operate heavy machinery while taking this medication,” you should not drive a motor vehicle while the medication is in effect.

Drowsy Driving

Alcohol and drowsiness affect the brain in nearly the same way, but unlike drunk driving, drowsy driving isn’t illegal, and is far more prevalent.  Unfortunately, drowsy driving is no less dangerous than drunk driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy drivers cause at least 100,000 crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities every year.

Drivers who had less than six hours of sleep the night previous are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel, so to reduce your risk of an accident, you should always get a minimum of seven hours of sleep.

If driving long distances at a stretch, reduce your drowsy driving risk by driving with a companion. Talking to your companion can help keep you alert, and you should swap with your companion every 100 miles or every two hours.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving includes anything that takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road, or your mind off the task of driving.

Common examples of distracted driving include:

  • Changing the radio station
  • Entering an address into the GPS
  • Reading or answering a text message
  • Reaching for something on the floor of the car
  • Turning around to talk to someone in the backseat of the car
  • Eating or drinking
  • Letting a pet sit on your lap

Any of these are examples of tasks that you may perform often, or even every day, and likely consider harmless, since they only take a moment to complete at most. However, accidents can happen within only fractions of a second, so anything that distracts you can have dangerous consequences.

According to a survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than 84% of drivers surveyed agreed that texting while driving is dangerous, but 36% of the same respondents also stated that they had texted while driving at least once within the past 30 days, despite knowing it was reckless. And alarmingly, roughly one in five people killed in distracted driving crashes are not drivers – they’re pedestrians and cyclists. When a driver knowingly acts recklessly, they should be held accountable for the harm they cause.

Injured by an Impaired Driver? We Can Help

Every driver has a responsibility to not harm the people around them. If any driver gets behind the wheel knowingly impaired or having knowingly engaged in activity that would impair their ability to drive, such as drinking alcohol, taking medication that causes drowsiness, or answering a text message while in motion, they can be held liable for the injuries they cause.

If you or someone you love was harmed by an impaired driver, we want to help you hold them accountable. Contact our Louisiana car accident lawyers today to learn how we help injured victims get compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering after serious auto accidents.