More people in Virginia and across the United States are being charged with driving under the influence (DUI) due to marijuana rather than alcohol. Between 2007 and 2014, the number of drivers accused of operating vehicles under the influence of pot increased by 50 percent.
While driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in Virginia, there is no comprehensive system that allows officers to test motorists reliably when out on the road. However, scientists are making progress when it comes to developing a portable marijuana "Breathalyzer".
Virginia basketball fans may be interested to learn that Derek Fisher has been charged with two counts of drunk driving on July 2. The former New York Knicks coach was involved in a one-vehicle crash in early June, though neither Fisher or his passenger suffered any injuries.
Virginia pro football fans likely remember Lawrence Taylor. In 2016, the former New York Giant linebacker was charged with DUI after hitting a motor home and sideswiping a police car near Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Taylor admitted to authorities that he had probably had too much to drink before getting into his vehicle. Taylor entered a guilty plea in the case, and he will not have to serve jail time as part of his sentence.
On June 9, it was reported that a Virginia woman who was convicted of causing a fatal car accident while drunk behind the wheel was sentenced to 73 years in prison. However, 40 of those years were suspended, meaning she will ultimately spend more than 30 years behind bars.
Virginia residents may have heard that golfer Tiger Woods had been taken into custody for impaired driving on May 29. He was arrested at about 3 a.m. before being taken to Palm Beach County Jail. He was released on his own recognizance at about 10:50 a.m. that morning. Woods claimed that the DUI was caused by a unexpected reaction to medication he was taking after a recent back surgery.
Virginia residents may have heard that the daughter of actor David Hasselhoff was taken into custody for drunk driving on May 13. According to authorities, she was driving on Highway 101 when her car came to a full stop at the Fallbrook off-ramp at about 4 a.m. When police arrived at the scene, she was passed out behind the wheel with her foot on the brake.
A 55-year-old Virginia elementary school teacher has been placed on administrative leave and faces a raft of charges including drunk driving, resisting arrest and four counts of assault due to an incident in Kingsport on the afternoon of April 28. Reports indicate that the woman turned herself in after being released from a local hospital. Police say that she was sedated and hospitalized after being taken into custody.
Virginia drivers who are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol are required to place an ignition interlock device on their vehicles. However, this is not the case in every state. In some states, the device is only mandatory if a person's blood alcohol is above a certain level, if there is a second offense or at the judge's discretion. In the first study to look at all 50 states and the effect of ignition interlock devices on alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities, researchers reported a 7 percent decrease in crashes and estimate around 1,250 lives have been saved since the first mandatory laws were passed in 1993.
Virginia residents might be at a greater risk of being involved in an accident with a driver who is under the influence of drugs than in the past. According to some reports from law enforcement and safety organizations, drugged driving is a growing threat. In 2011, a study found that college students were roughly equally likely to drive while under the influence of drugs as alcohol.