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Texas Laws About Prescription Drugs and Driving

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas does not only refer to driving after drinking alcohol. It also refers to the crime of drugged driving. Driving under the intoxicating influence of any drug – even prescription medications – is against the law in Texas. If you operate a motor vehicle after taking a prescription drug that interferes with your ability to safely drive in Texas, you could get a DWI and face substantial penalties. You could also cause a serious car accident and life-changing personal injuries. Be careful what you take before driving.

Texas Penal Code 49.04: DWI Law

Texas’ DWI law is found in Texas Penal Code 49.04. This law defines intoxication as the loss of the normal use of physical or mental faculties from any substance, including alcohol, drugs, dangerous drugs or a combination of substances. Intoxication also refers to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher. The loss of normal use of faculties could refer to significant changes, such as falling asleep behind the wheel, or smaller changes that still impact the ability to drive, such as impaired judgment and slowed reaction times.

Penal Code 49.10 goes on to say the defendant’s lawful use of a substance is not a defense to a DWI charge. It does not matter if a person is 21 and legally allowed to drink or if the driver had a prescription for the intoxicating drug. Driving under the influence of any substance that impacts a driver’s faculties meets the definition of the crime of DWI, regardless of whether the person lawfully consumed the substance. Having a legal right to consume a prescription medication does not give a patient the right to drive if the drug impairs his or her faculties.

According to Texas penal law, the crime of driving while intoxicated is a class B misdemeanor. The minimum jail term for a DWI is 72 hours. A DWI with an open container charge comes with a minimum confinement term of six days. DWI with a BAC of 0.15% or higher is a class A misdemeanor with a minimum confinement term of 30 days. Upon conviction of DWI, an individual will also need to pay $2,000 to $10,000 in fines depending on the level of the offense. Other punishments include community service and driver’s license suspension.

Dangerous Prescription Drugs for Drivers

Avoiding a DWI charge is a good reason not to drive intoxicated, but your top priority should be safety. Driving under the influence of a prescription drug that impairs your ability to safely drive could put yourself and others at risk of serious injury. If you cause an accident while under the influence, you could face even more severe criminal charges, such as intoxication manslaughter. Even if you did not realize a prescription drug would intoxicate you, you could be civilly liable for the car accident, injuries and deaths you caused behind the wheel. Avoid taking potentially intoxicating prescription medications if you know you need to drive.

  • Allergy medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Anxiety medications
  • Cold medicines
  • Cough syrups
  • Diet pills
  • Drugs containing codeine
  • Melatonin or sleeping pills
  • Painkillers
  • Stimulants
  • Tranquilizers

Ask your doctor how a prescription medication might impact your ability to drive. Read the possible side effects thoroughly. The first time you take a new drug, do not drive or operate heavy machinery. Find out how the drug affects you first. You may feel drowsy, disoriented, confused, anxious, stressed, dizzy, slow, nauseous or something else that could make it difficult to safely control your motor vehicle. Never combine alcohol with any prescription medication. When in doubt, stay home or arrange a safe ride to your destination rather than getting behind the wheel. You could prevent an accident and/or a DWI charge by not driving under the influence of a prescription drug.

Posted by admin at 4:58 pm

What is Drowsy Driving?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The dangers that exist when behind the wheel are perilous and apparent; drunk and distracted driving garners much attention, and is something most drivers avoid themselves while remaining vigilant for it in others. One danger that we perhaps don’t pay enough attention to, however, is distracted driving, which, according to a AAA study, is just as likely to cause an accident as driving while intoxicated.

Fatigue Behind the Wheel

Lack of quality sleep can affect a lot of areas of your life, but driving is perhaps the most hazardous. Even if you’re awake, less than six hours of sleep per night can drastically increase your chances of being in an accident. Side effects of such little sleep include:

  • Impaired reaction time
  • Problems processing information and with short-term memory
  • Decreased performance and vigilance
  • Increased aggravation or short temper

If you’ve ever reached your destination and realized you don’t remember any of what you saw while driving there, yelled at another driver for a minor inconvenience or have felt yourself take an extra second to apply the brakes, this could be an indicator of lack of sleep.

Fatigue cannot be measured or tested for after an accident like drunk driving can. It’s therefore tough to tell just how often driver fatigue is the main cause of an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 2.5 percent of fatal car accidents involve drowsy driving. However, because of the difficulty estimating drowsiness, that number could actually be anywhere from 15 to 33 percent.

Drowsy Driving Statistics

Of 19 states surveyed in a 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 6.1 percent of Texas drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel within the past 30 days, the highest rate of any state. It’s unclear why Texas was the worst of the states surveyed, but it’s well above the national average of 4.2 percent.

An interesting anomaly in the CDC study concluded that it’s not just how much sleep we’re getting, but how well we sleep. Those who get less than six hours of sleep and snore reported falling asleep at the wheel at a rate of 8.5 percent, compared to 5.2 percent for those who don’t.

Getting the recommended amount of sleep is easier said than done, but it’s imperative to recognize the signs of a drowsy driver, whether it’s yourself or someone else. If you notice the driver appears fatigues, offer to drive for a while. If you feel sleepy behind the wheel, pull off the road and close your eyes for a few minutes. If you have taken a medicine that may cause drowsiness, don’t drive until you know how it affects you.

Posted by admin at 9:01 pm