Richmond man claims to drive better while high, 'become the car'

Published: Jul. 20, 2016 at 5:42 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2016 at 10:42 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You've heard of people getting pulled over for being drunk behind the wheel, but people being pulled over for being high behind the wheel happens more than you think. In states where recreational use of marijuana is now legal, researchers say the number of fatal crashes involving pot actually doubled.

Now, NBC12 is uncovering what police are seeing in Central Virginia and how they respond to drugged drivers, who are potentially putting you in danger on the road.

"This [expletive] fell asleep with a [expletive] needle in his hand [and] ran into my [expletive] car. He's got his daughter in the backseat," a man takes to Instagram with an explosive video, visibly agitated after he claims a drugged driver hit his car in Atlanta.

"You good? How much you think you got on you?" the driver questioned the man regarding his drugs.

Similar scenarios are happening here in Central Virginia.

In fact, NBC12 caught up with a man who asked to be referred to as "Neil." He lives in the Richmond area and admits he often smokes pot before getting behind the wheel.

"Everybody's doing it. Babysitters, doctors, lawyers," he said.

Neil says he wasn't high at the time of the interview.

"Let's say I'm going to drive at least an hour. I'm going to smoke some marijuana. It just makes the drive better," he said.

That's what has local safety leaders worried. Researchers say a decline in alcohol-related accidents have had a negative consequence: an increase of crashes involving drivers high on other drugs.

"Cocaine, heroin, crystal meth. It's all out there," said Sgt. Edward Pierpont of Chesterfield Police.

That leads to a serious problem. Unlike alcohol, which may take a few drinks to get you drunk, experts say drugs like heroin immediately impacts the driver, causing many to pass out right on the road.

Sgt. Pierpont demonstrated a series of field sobriety tests his officers are using to determine if a driver is high on any drug.

"Do you step off line? Do your heels not touch the toe?" he asked while demonstrating.

Drugged drivers are being ordered off the roads, charged with DUID (driving under the influence of drugs), as they sober up in jail.

It doesn't have to be an illegal drug. You could be high off of a prescription that's left you too high to drive.

"Even though you may be taking it legally, behind the wheel of a vehicle, it could affect your coordination and your reflexes to the point that you are considered impaired and you would be in violation of the law," Sgt. Pierpont added, urging those on medication to read the labels carefully.

In Chesterfield, Jefferson Davis Highway tops the list of DUI/DUID arrests with multiple arrests this year. South Chippenham Parkway near Interstate 95 isn't far behind.

In Henrico, West Broad Street is keeping police busy with 67 DUI/DUID arrests this year.

In Richmond, Hull Street is a drunk-driving and drugged-driving hotspot.

Neil says he's never caught a charge and just doesn't see the problem driving high.

"I become the car. I can feel the road. I'm doing the speed limit. I may do five miles over and just cruise the whole way," he explained.

"You may feel comfortable behind the wheel, but you may also be impaired," Sgt. Pierpont added.

Which is causing crashes nationwide, many of them fatal - at the hands of a driver who only wanted a fix.

Last year, Virginia State Police made nearly 4,800 arrests of drivers considered too drunk or too high to be behind the wheel.

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