Driving Under the Influence in Pennsylvania

What Is Impaired Driving?

Although in some states like Michigan the term impaired driving is frequently used as a synonym to drunk driving or drugged driving it’s not exactly the same. Generally, impaired driving includes both drunk and drugged driving, but it also refers to:

  • distracted driving (for example, while talking on the cell phone or actively chatting with a passenger or even applying lipstick),
  • driving under the influence of medicines that affect your ability to operate vehicles, slow reaction, make you sleepy or affect decision making,
  • being too tired or sleepy
  • having a chronic or acute medical condition that impairs your ability to operate a vehicle

Although not all cases of impaired driving fall under DUI/DWI category or any other laws regulating traffic safety and inflict punishment, you should remember that it’s only yours and no one else’s responsibility to ensure your own and others’ safety on the road once you get behind the steering wheel. Obtaining the driver’s license means that your fully understand the responsibility of operating a risky technical device, the vehicle.

What medications may affect your driving abilities:

  • tranquilizers
  • some painkillers
  • some antidepressants
  • some cold remedies and allergy products
  • products containing codeine
  • sleeping pills
  • diet pills
  • “stay awake” drugs, as well as other stimulants (e.g. caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine)
  • prescription anxiety drugs

How Can I Prevent Impaired Driving?

  • God forbid from driving drunk or drugged! If you, your relatives or friends drive drunk, seek help from organizations against drunk driving, use these tips to prevent teenage drunk driving.
  • If you have to take any of the above medications ask your physician about their effect on your ability to drive, request the full list of possible side effects and inform you doctor about any other meds or supplements your are currently taking because the interaction may increase the risk of side effects.
  • Listen to your body very carefully. If you feel sick, sleepy, too nervous or stressed, too weak or sick, don’t drive. Ask someone to give you a ride, walk, use public transport or if you are a senior driver call the ElderCare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 and ask how to call the the local Office on Aging for transportation assistance.
  • If you feel unwell while driving, need to make a call, send a message to do something else that distracts you, pull over.
  • Be aware that the following medical conditions may seriously affect your ability to drive:

dimentia, having a stroke, epilepsy, arthritis, glaucoma, seizures, muscular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea, Alzheimer. * And finally, remember that driving impaired endangers not just your own life but also the lives of your passengers, other drivers and pedestrians.

Is Impaired Driving a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

Although the answer largely depends on the state law, in many cases it’s none of the two - unless you are driving under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol, which may qualify the offence either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Please, note that alcohol includes not just beer or whisky but all substances containing alcohol, even medications. Specifically, Pennsylvania law regulating impaired driving uses the term DUI (driving under the influence), which covers driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.

Impaired Driving Facts

  • Statistics says that impaired driving (in any of the above forms) is accountable for most of car accidents, including fatal ones.
  • 250,000 drivers fall asleep in the US every day.
  • Up to 60% of all accidents in the US (figures differ from state to state) are caused by sleepy drivers.