Although all of us are aware of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of legal or illegal drugs can be just as dangerous. Drugged driving can be defined as driving a vehicle while under the influence of a drug that renders the driver incapable of driving. Recent research shows that drugs such as marijuana double the likelihood that a driver will be in a car accident. And this definition of drugged driving is not just limited to illegal drugs, but also includes driving under the influence of legal drugs, such as a prescription drug, if it impairs the ability of a person to drive.
A recent article from U.S. News and World Report further highlights the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs, claiming that being under the influence of a drug triples the driver’s risk of being involved in a fatal accident. And although Maryland has fewer incidences of drugged driving than most other states, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health still reports that about 4 percent of Maryland residents over the age of 16 had driven under the influence of illicit drugs during the past year. This statistic would be higher if it included driving under the influence of legal drugs.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident with a drugged driver, an experienced Maryland car accident attorney will be able to advise you about whether you have a potential claim under Maryland drugged driving law.
Maryland Law and Drugged Driving
Section 21-902 of the Maryland Code of Transportation governs drugged driving in Maryland. The law makes it a criminal offense if a person:
- Drives any vehicle while so far impaired by any drug, any combination of drugs, or a combination of one or more drugs and alcohol that he cannot drive a vehicle safely, or
- Drives or attempts to drive any vehicle while the person is impaired by any controlled dangerous substance.
In plain English, this means that if a person drives while under a “controlled dangerous substance” (which includes an illegal drug, such as marijuana), that person is guilty of drugged driving. Moreover, if a person is so far impaired by any drug (including a legal drug) that he cannot drive a vehicle safely, that person is guilty of drugged driving. However, if the drug was a legal drug, the person can present an affirmative defense that they did not know it would make them incapable of safely driving a vehicle.
If a person is in violation of the Maryland drugged driving statute, they are presumed to be negligent per se. This means that under Maryland personal injury law, there is a presumption that the driver who violated the drugged driving was negligent. A presumption can be very important in a personal injury case because it shifts the burden of proof, which typically rests with the plaintiff, to the defendant.
For example, if you or a loved one were injured in a car accident and can prove that the other driver violated Maryland drugged driving law, it is then up to the defendant to prove that they were driving safely and should not be liable for your injuries. If the defendant is unable to do this, they can be liable for the injured person’s medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
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