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Drugged Driving Accidents in Massachusetts

For more than a decade, there has been a major heroin epidemic in Boston and across Massachusetts. This has not only been a major problem for society in general, but it I also a major problem in terms of drugged driving and drugged driving accidents. In addition to heroin, there has also been a major increase in drugged driving accidents involving prescription narcotics ranging from methadone to fentanyl.   It’s a common misconception that a prescription for one of these powerful drugs is a license to freely use them before driving.

drugs-defect-pills-300x226This is of course not true.  Alcohol is the perfect analogy.  Alcohol is legal for anyone 21 or older to consume, but everyone knows it is illegal to drink and drive.  They may still do so, but they can’t claim they were unaware of it being illegal.

However, while drugged driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, it is often harder for police officers to prove a person is under the influence of drugs on the side of a road at a Boston drugged driving accident scene of a drugged driving arrest where an accident did not occur.  A recent news article from CBS News takes a look at how officers handle these cases and some of the challenges they may face.  The first problem is that there is often no odor associated with the particular drug.  While this is not true if someone was recently smoking PCP or marijuana, it is true in the case of opioids that are injected or ingested.

When someone is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, the officers will typically give a series of three standardized field sobriety tests (SFTSs).  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standardized these SFSTs over several decades through laboratory research and roadside surveillance during DUI arrests and investigations.  Officers must be trained in administration of SFSTs by taking a course approved by NHTSA and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, but it is typically a two or three-day course.   Most officers are trained on SFSTs at the academy, but they have to be retained every so often. Only some officers do this, and they are often the designated SFST officers others will call to the scene after a suspected drunk driving accident.

These methods are not validated for use in determining if someone is under the influence of drugs.  In order to make that determination, an officer must undergo a much more intense training, such as the Advance Roadside Impaired Drive Enforcement (ARIDE) certification or become a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE).   There are fewer officers on the average police force that are DRE or ARIDE certified; however, due to the serious problem with drugged driving, more and more officers are being certified.

There are various methods officers will use to make a drugged driving determination.  One of the common methods is to compare a person’s pupil size and various light levels to dots on a chart or wheel known as a pupilometer.

If you or someone you love has been injured a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Drugged Driving vs. Drunk Driving; What Troopers look for, what drugs they find on the roads, October 17, 2016, By Dani Carlson, CBS News

More Blog Entries:

Report: Boston Named as Having Worst Drivers in US – Many Drunk Driving Accidents, July 21, 2016, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog