Driving Impaired - Inhalants

Inhalation DUIDid you know that in Florida unlike alcohol, where the legal limit is a blood-alcohol level of .08, there is no similar standard when it comes to inhalants and impaired driving?

The National Institute for Health shared national surveys that indicated that nearly 21.7 million Americans aged 12 and older have used inhalants at least once in their lives.

Findings from the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that although the chemical substances found in inhalants may produce various pharmacological effects, most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication, with initial excitation followed by drowsiness, disinhibition, lightheadedness, and agitation. If sufficient amounts are inhaled, nearly all solvents and gases produce anesthesia — a loss of sensation — and can lead to unconsciousness.

Inhalants are often chosen by teens and adults because they are easy to acquire, low cost, and can be found in the household, at school and in the workplace. The chemicals also vary widely. Inhalants can include solvents like paint thinner, gasoline, or glue. It can also be a gas like butane, propane or nitrous oxide. It can even be aerosol propellants or variations of household chemicals – spray paint, cleaning products, nail polish remover or vegetable oil spray.

These solvents are “huffed,” “sniffed,” “bagged,” or “snorted” by the user. Users can experience severe changes in their state of consciousness with little to no warning. Inhalants can cause a variety of health issues including asphyxiation, suffocation, coma, choking and even sudden death. Inhalants can also cause fatal injury from motor vehicle accidents when the driver loses their ability to control the vehicle and drive safely.

Common examples of driver inhalant intoxication often include loss of normal road awareness, loss of the ability react properly to changing driving circumstances, loss of the ability properly control driving speed, loss of the ability to safely maintain position within a lane, loss of the ability to follow other vehicles at a safe distance, and an increased tendency to attempt unsafe driving maneuvers.

If an auto accident resulted in a serious injury or death, it may be difficult to charge the individual with a DUI. The Palm Beach Post discussed the public safety concern in an article. The article highlights a lack of standards and shares three separate incidents where drivers used inhalants and caused an accident killing innocent victims. Two are now convicted and serving time in jail, and the other individual is awaiting trial. Today, the current penalty (Florida Statute 877.111), is a second-degree misdemeanor if one inhales or ingests harmful chemicals and it is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

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