Driving under the influence is often associated with the abuse of alcohol, but the term also applies to drugged drivers. Drugs don't have to be illegal for them to affect a driver's ability to make clear decisions. When used illegally or improperly, prescription medications also can lead to driving errors and accidents.
An Illinois driver is facing a possible 14-year prison term for causing the death of a passenger. Prosecutors learned the Pekin man had traces of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, marijuana's potent ingredient, in his system at the time of the single-vehicle car accident last year.
Reports said the Illinois driver crashed after ignoring a warning light and running a stop sign. A 19-year-old male passenger died after being ejected from the vehicle. The driver was slightly hurt.
The defendant pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI. The 20-year-old driver had earlier convictions for speeding and failure to reduce speed to prevent a crash. Sentencing is set for February.
Investigators found illegal synthetic marijuana, a pipe and a significant amount of cash in the car but were not required to show the driver was impaired. Under Illinois's strict DUI-drug law, impairment proof was not required for the prosecution to press for an enhanced DUI conviction. The presence of an illegal drug in a driver's blood or urine was sufficient evidence.
Drunk driving accidents are caused by drivers with blood alcohol content readings that register at least 0.08 percent. Drug impairment is not measured so easily. This is the reason the state Supreme Court approved a "flat" policy of strict liability for the use of controlled substances while driving.
Illinois no-tolerance laws provide harsh criminal charges and penalties for drunk or drugged drivers. Civil courts focus on whether a defendant's negligence resulted in another's injury or death. A driver who uses an illegal substance fails to consider the safety of others before getting behind the wheel.
pjstar.com, "Guilty plea entered in Pekin DUI fatal" No author given, Nov. 12, 2013