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Homecoming Turns Deadly


As hundreds of Oklahoma State University fans lined the streets to watch the annual homecoming day parade, a car suddenly drove through police barricades and plowed directly into the onlookers. Bystanders described the horrific scene as one where bodies went flying into the air, chaos erupted, and every emergency responder in the county descended. The devastation was soon apparent: four people were dead--a two year old, an OSU graduate student, and two OSU faculty members who were married to each other--and approximately four dozen other people were injured. Among the injured, 17 remained hospitalized and 4 remained in critical condition a day after the tragedy.

The driver of the car has been identified as Adacia Chambers, a 25 year old resident of Stillwater, Oklahoma. She has been charged with Driving Under the Influence--of drugs, since no alcohol is thought to have been involved. She has also been charged with four counts of second-degree murder. If convicted, she could face life in prison.


The terms "Driving Under the Influence," and "Driving While Impaired" should no longer be assumed to indicate that a driver is incapacitated due to alcohol. While driving drunk still causes too many traffic fatalities in this country, driving under the influence of drugs is quickly catching up in numbers: the number of dead drivers testing positive for drugs increased from 29% in 2005 to 39.9% in 2013. That means that almost 40% of drivers in fatal crashes had drugs in their system.

Although illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and many synthetic drugs play a big part in these figures, there is another disturbing story behind these numbers. Prescription drug use has quadrupled since 1999, and marijuana has been legalized in some form in 23 states and D.C. With more people taking more prescription medications, there is more likelihood that people will drive under the influence of drugs. The fact that a driver is taking legally prescribed medication is no defense to a DUI or DWI charge; if a medication is causing impairment, then the driver can be charged. Even Over-the-Counter medications can form the basis of DUI charges, since some are known to cause drowsiness and slower reaction times, such as antihistamines, sleeping pills, and certain cold medicines.


Georgia has what is known as a "per se drugged driving law," which makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of marijuana or controlled substances in a driver's system. As mentioned above, the fact that the drug is legal or that the driver has a legal prescription is not a defense; if it is less safe for the person to drive while taking the drug, then they are violating the law and can be charged.


Some suggest that stricter penalties for DUI and DWI would help to deter drugged driving, advocating the suspension or forfeiture of a driver's license for a first offense. Another measure aimed at deterring drugged driving is better enforcement of zero tolerance laws for drivers under 21 years old in all states. Penalties and enforcement provisions should be followed up with mandatory substance abuse assessment and treatment where indicated.


If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, and a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol was at fault, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your legal rights.

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Thomas Law Firm
Located at 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Resurgens Plaza, GA 30326.

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