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Drunk, drugged and behind the wheel: Ohio's growing problem

Summit county, home to Akron University and some of Ohio's major employers, saw a spike in the number of fatal vehicle crashes involving drivers under the influence of either drugs or alcohol.

In 2016, more than half of the 40 fatal accidents in the county were related to drivers operating under the influence of a mind-altering substance. Out of those 21 cases, 12 were attributed to drugs, not alcohol.

Drugged driving has become a major problem on Ohio's highways, affecting the state at large, not just those in Summit County. Drugged driving crashes were up 25 percent across the state in 2016. A report in early November indicated that there had been at least 3,574 crashes involving drugged driving by that point in the year.

Experts say the trend is disturbing for a number of reasons. It's a symptom of the escalating drug problem in the Midwest, but it's also something that non-impaired drivers are less conscious about—which means they aren't driving as defensively as they probably should.

Drivers typically associated drunk driving with evening—and rightly so, since most drunk driving crashes happen at night when folks have had a chance to unwind from work or hit the bars. But drug use is a different sort of problem, and users don't have a particular time of day or night that they typically start using. That means impaired drivers are on the roads at all hours of the day, but non-impaired drivers still think they're fairly safe in the daytime, especially during work hours.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol is trying to combat the problem through community education, sobriety checkpoints and increased patrols, but the best thing drivers can do is be conscious of the problem and alert for signs of a driver who is impaired at any time of the day or night.

You can also help by staying off the road if you take any sort of drug that could possibly affect your ability to operate a vehicle properly. That includes over-the-counter drugs like cold and allergy medication and legal prescriptions. Many drivers don't stop to realize that the legal drugs they have in their system could make them too impaired to drive, or they take the chance anyhow.

If you do make a mistake and are charged with an OVI offense, an attorney can help you with an aggressive defense.

Source: NewsNet5, "Spike in fatal crashes by drunk or drugged drivers causing concern in Summit County," Bob Jones, Feb. 16, 2017

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