Drugged Driving Is a Serious Threat to Virginia Motorists

Drugged Driving: A Growing Threat on Virginia Roads

Drugged driving is becoming increasingly problematic on Virginia roads. When people who are not in condition to drive get behind the wheel, impairment can cause crashes that lead to injury or death.

Keep reading to learn more about drugged driving in Virginia, and what to do if you have suffered as a victim of a drugged driving accident.

What Is Drugged Driving?

Driving under the influence of an illegal narcotics or prescription drugs is considered drugged driving. In a 2010 study, drivers tested for drug use made up 11.4% of all drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes. The percentage of drivers using multiple drugs increased from 32.6% in 1993 to 45.8% in 2010.

Despite the growing trend of people driving while drugged, it is difficult to create a universal definition of what drugged driving looks like because different substances have different effects when ingested. Marijuana and opiate painkillers slow reaction times, cocaine hyper-stimulates, and LSD causes hallucinations. Each substance, when abused, can make for a dangerous situation, but each situation looks completely different.

Common Substances in Drugged Driving Cases

Two of the substances most commonly tied to drugged driving crashes are marijuana and prescription drugs. Almost half of deadly crashes nationwide involved a prescription drug and roughly 40% involved marijuana. Even something as commonplace as anti-depressants can have a serious impact on a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, especially in combination with alcohol.

Common Challenges in a Drugged Driving Liability Claim

There are a number of hurdles to effective testing and identification of substance abuse in drugged driving cases.


  • There Is No Good Roadside Test: One major issue with quickly identifying drugged driving is that there is no good roadside test (as there is with alcohol). The technology for testing simply hasn’t kept up with legislation around usage. To check for street or prescription drug use, the officer needs to order a blood or urine sample, which costs extra time and money and can also be interpreted as a rights violation in certain situations.
  • Commonplace Prescriptions Interact with Alcohol: Drugged driving is not always the result of intentionally reckless behavior. Many widely-used prescriptions, like anti-depressants and painkillers, have terrible effects when unwittingly mixed with alcohol — even minor amounts.
  • Even Blood Tests Can Be Unreliable: The body processes some drugs very quickly and others very slowly. Marijuana, for example, can remain in your blood up to 30 days after using, whereas cocaine has a half-life of an hour. Depending on how quickly the tests are administered, the results might not be accurate.
  • It Is Usually Easier to Charge DUI: If an officer can test someone’s BAC and charge them with a DUI, there is usually little motivation to follow up and make sure they are not under the influence of other substances.

Advice for Victims of Drugged Driving Accidents

After a traumatic accident, your first priority should be your safety. Make sure you are in a safe place before calling 911 and cooperate with authorities. If erratic driving or other clues lead you to believe the driver was drugged at the time of the crash, report this to the authorities and first responders as soon as you can. Remember, many officers will not order a blood or urine test if the driver at fault is already on the hook for a DUI.

After the accident, visit a licensed medical professional even if you do not think you have been injured badly (or at all). Internal injuries and concussions are not always immediately apparent and, left untreated, these injuries can cause serious health issues down the road. Plus, establishing a paper trail of medical records is critical to building a strong case and the key to receiving compensation from the insurance company.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

After a drugged driving accident, the person responsible may face criminal charges, spend time in jail, and receive court-mandated substance abuse counseling. While this makes our community safer, it does not compensate you for your suffering. To get justice, you must file a lawsuit, which means you likely need the help of a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer.

Drugged driving cases are complicated. Given the challenges around identifying drugged drivers and the number of substances that can impair driving, seeking help from an experienced personal injury lawyer is critical.

An experienced attorney will also help you navigate the notoriously brutal insurance claims process. Your lawyer will make sure you are not bullied out of the compensation you deserve or tricked into settling for an offer that does not fully compensate your suffering.

Phelan Petty: Experienced Virginia Personal Injury Lawyers

With a track record of successful personal injury cases, a team of nationally recognized lawyers, and a network of experts at our disposal, Phelan Petty offers aggressive, detail-oriented representation to victims of other’s negligence.

We are aggressive but compassionate and ready to dive head-first into the most complex drugged driving cases. We are able to analyze complex toxicology reports, dashcam footage, doctor testimony, medical records, and more with scientific precision.

If you or a loved one have been harmed because of a drugged driver’s negligence, please contact our firm right away for a free case evaluation by calling (804) 980-7100 or completing this brief form.


Pagan, J. A., Stimpson, J. P., & Wilson, F. A. (2014, July). Fatal crashes from drivers testing positive for drugs in the U.S., 1993-2010. National Institute of Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24982537

(2016, June 3). Drugged Driving. NIDA. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/drugged-driving

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.