PHOENIX – Drugged driving is a new trend that’s putting more and more people in danger.
Many don’t realize being impaired on prescription drugs is illegal and will result in a charge known as DUI drugs.
Nicole Marie Moon, 21, learned that the hard way. In December she was driving along the 101 freeway when she fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a Salt River motorcycle police officer who had pulled over another car.
According to Maricopa County Superior Court records, Moon admitted to taking Soma, Xanax, Percocet and drinking alcohol that night.
She also admitted she didn’t have a prescription for any of the medications.
Trevor Graff is a drug recognition expert with the Department of Public Safety. Graff says, "When I arrest people for DUI drugs they say, I didn't know it was against the law."
Graff says he arrests at least one person a week suspected of driving under the influence of prescription drugs. He says, "I've arrested nurses for narcotics. I arrested a doctor. He was taking too much of his prescription drugs and he was a doctor and I've gone all the way down to a 17-year-old kid that was buying pills at school."
So it's a huge problem and people just don't realize it."
Graff says many drivers use the fact that they’re on prescription medication as a defense. "That's what every single one of them says when we're doing the evaluations on them, they're like ‘it's just prescription medication’."
Graff was featured on the Dr. Oz show this week to talk about the growing number of people taking prescription meds and then driving.
For Graff exposing prescription drug abuse to a national audience was a huge opportunity as was meeting Dr. Oz.
"He's got 800 people talking to him every second of the day. He's just in every direction but he actually took the time to sit down, shake our hand, talk to us, and actually get to know us a bit before the show so that was kind of neat."
For Graff, getting the message out is critical because he wants everyone to be aware of the ramifications of driving while abusing prescription medication. "You're going to get arrested, you're going to go to jail, you’re going get big fines, your vehicle is going to be locked up for 30 days, you're going to have to get an interlock device and everything else that a normal DUI is going to get."
Moon is scheduled to go on trial next month. She’s facing aggravated assault, endangerment and possession of prescription only drugs.