The Drug Class Blog

Jun 23

More on Impaired Driving

How Different Drugs Impair Driving

Most people think that DUIs (driving under the influence) cases only apply to alcohol, but a host of other substances can diminish the capacity of a driver on the road. Drugged driving may not receive as much attention as drunk driving, but it results in just as many casualties. According to MADD, in 2012, 1,497 deaths were due to motorists driving under the influence with 24.1% (614) deaths caused by drivers who tested positive for drugs, and marijuana was the leading substance. Some individuals also mix different drugs with alcohol, which leads to even worse consequences. Drugs have different effects in various people and understanding how that influences driving is necessary for users, legal professionals, and the public.


Cannabis is the highly used illegal drug in Canada, although as of 2017, the government is looking to legalize its recreational use. Some individuals may have a better handle on pot than others but diminished reaction time when on the road occurs in almost every user. Marijuana users have a hard time keeping their focus, meaning they may not be able to tell the time or distance clearly when driving. Imagine the outcome when you can't swerve or break quick enough to avoid another motorist. Cannabis can also cause drowsiness, which makes it hard to read road signs, consequently increasing the risk of accidents. Coordination is also a problem for a motorist with marijuana in his or her system, and that can make it difficult to keep the hands on the wheel.


People underestimate the impact of tranquilizers and take them during the day when going about their duties. Even when sedatives such as benzodiazepines are prescribed, misusing them like taking them with alcohol or other antidepressants leads to effects such as drowsiness and poor concentration, which impairs the ability to operate machines. When a motorist can't keep his/her eyes open long enough to notice the traffic lights change or the car in front signal, then an accident is highly probable. Tranquilizers can also weaken the perception of a driver, thus making it difficult to judge distances.


Opiates cover a lot of drugs from legal ones like morphine to illegal substances like heroin. Even in small doses, opiates have very strong effects such as mental confusion, which greatly reduces the ability of a driver to maintain focus. Visual impairment is another effect that increases the risk of drivers crashing or hitting pedestrians. A motorist on opiates can also feel drowsy, especially when the drugs are combined with alcohol.


Cocaine users can take unnecessary risks on the road because the drug increases impulse behavior. A driver who is on cocaine tends to have poor judgment when the effects start wearing off, which makes him/her a dangerous road user. Such a motorist may fail to recognize road signs or respond to traffic instructions. Some users mix cocaine with other substances such as heroin, antihistamines, or alcohol, which can result in other effects such as agitation and confusion/disorientation. A cocaine user can have trouble reacting to certain situations on the road, hence presenting high accident risks.

Drugged Driving Implications

Canada's per se laws only apply to alcohol, meaning that it is necessary to prove behavioral impairment in a drugged driver. Establishing solid evidence that a driver has an impairment caused by the drugs in his/her system has always been hard. However, Canada has Drug Recognition Experts who have training in spotting drugged drivers. DREs have the right to ask a driver to take several tests if there is suspicion of drug use. These exams are designed to evaluate impairment and the class of drugs responsible for it. DREs can demand urine, oral fluid, or blood samples for toxicology testing.

Canada's Criminal Code states that it is illegal to drive while impaired by drugs. The law covers all kinds of vehicles, including snowmobiles, off-road cars, and boats. A driver found to be impaired after a DRE evaluation may get a license suspension for one year or more, depending on the number of instances of the offense. Drivers found guilty for the second and subsequent times can serve a jail term, plus a fine. Another penalty is a requirement to install an ignition interlock device in your car.

Getting Help

Drugged drivers range from habitual users to first timers and in whichever circumstance, getting treatment is highly recommended. Addiction is an epidemic globally, and seeking early help can save an individual from becoming a statistic. Drivers found guilty of driving while impaired must get mandatory treatment, which goes a long way in addressing the root of a drug use problem. Canada has excellent facilities that offer treatment programs for different drugs.

Driving under the influence of drugs endangers not only your life but those of every road user. Besides that, if found guilty, the criminal implications can destroy your life, especially if it's not the first time. In the case of recreational drug use, ensure that you have designated a driver to take care of your transport needs.


Houston defense lawyer Greg Tsioros provides legal advice and aggressive representation for clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies at both the state and federal level. Mr. Tsioros handles criminal defense cases of any stature - from orders of non-disclosure and expunctions to more serious DWI and drug charges.

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