Risks Involved with Taking Vicodin and Driving
Driving laws are very specific in all fifty states when it comes to driving while impaired. Most notable is the fact that driving while impaired applies to alcohol as well as drugs, either prescribed or illegally obtained. Hydrocodone or Vicodin, for example, can carry its own separate violation charge. In California, DUI Vicodin leads to criminal prosecution and possible a felony offense if a legal prescription for the drug has not been obtained from a medical professional.
States that do not carry separate DUI Vicodin charges will never the less charge a driver with being impaired while operating a motor vehicle. If a motorist were to be pulled over by a police officer, or if a motorist was involved in a traffic accident and impairment was suspected blood tests or urine samples that reveal Vicodin or any other substance known to impair motor skills would be sufficient evidence to warrant a ticket, fines, probation, DUI school, suspension of driver's license, or even jail time.
Hydocodone or Vicodin belongs to the same drug class as heroin, codeine and Demerol. They are considered opiates known to impair mental ability and reaction time. Whether legally prescribed or not, drivers are charged for demonstrating a lack of judgment about the effects such drugs would have on the ability to drive safely. A warning accompanies all prescriptions to exercise care before mixing driving and pill dosage. Ignoring such a warning makes one legally responsible for causing an accident or operating a car in an unsafe manner.
While the effects of drugs are not exactly the same for each individual, it is the driver's sole responsibility to allow for potential decreases in reaction time and slowed reflexes. Once a DWI violation occurs it must be proven that impairment was not the cause of an accident, or that an officer's suspicions were not due to impairment caused by Vicodin. Generally speaking, 5-10 mgs of Vicodin can cause mild impairment. How long the driver has been on Vicodin will also be part of the defense against such a charge. Lastly, whether or not the amount of drug found in the system was within normal therapeutic ranges will be investigated.
Ironically, while the number of drinking and driving related deaths have decreased, drugged driving is on the increase. According to President Obama's top drug adviser, R. Gil Kerikwoske, "We need a very clear message on not using drugs and driving." In the upcoming 5 years the administration will be putting more effort into educating the country - especially teens - about the danger of drugged driving.
Ignorance of the law will not be a suitable defense for motorists receiving DWI violations for hydrocodone or Vicodin. It can be very expensive to hire a lawyer in order to mount a proper defense against such charges. As more attention is paid to this aspect of unsafe motor vehicle operation, more drivers could suffer the consequences of driving while impaired charge due to Vicodin. More testing and better enforcement will no doubt bring much needed awareness to this unnecessary driving risk.