Although driving under the influence of alcohol greatly increases your chances of getting a DUI, there are times when someone may face DUI charges without having a sip of alcohol. That is because there are other drugs and medications that affect driving ability.
Illegal drugs are not the only substances that may result in a DUI. Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications also have side effects that mimic impaired driving.
Substances that affect driving ability
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, many people may not realize how their medications may be putting them and others at risk on the road. Certain prescription drugs, such as antianxiety, antidepressants, opioid painkillers and sleeping pills, come with side effects that impair driving skills. There are even some OTC drugs, such as those for colds and allergies, that have side effects such as:
- Slowed response time
- Blurry vision
- Trouble paying attention
FindLaw points out that illegal drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, also affect driving. Marijuana, even if it is legal in the state, is also detrimental to driving ability.
How law enforcement officers determine impaired driving
Although there are specific methods, such as the breathalyzer, to test the levels of alcohol in the blood, there is not a specific, immediate test for other substances. Sometimes, officers conduct a urine test to see if there are metabolites of marijuana in the system. However, the problem with that is these metabolites remain in the system for days after the ingestion of the substance, making it harder to prove a DUI.
In some states, a driver may receive a DUI if a blood or urine test finds metabolites in the blood, even if the driver did not seem impaired at the stop. Other states will charge a DUI if there are clear signs of impairment, regardless of the presence of metabolites.