Most people in the US have gotten the message on how dangerous it can be to drink and drive thanks to effective law enforcement and increased public awareness, but the same cannot be said about people being aware of the dangers of drugged driving.
When the term “driving under the influence” is mentioned, most individuals immediately think of alcohol. Drugged driving, however, is an equally serious issue that demands the same amount of attention. Over the years, incidents of drugged driving have become so prevalent that is considered a public health threat, putting everyone at risk for serious injury or even death.
According to the 2007 National Roadside Survey of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, test results showed that over 16 percent or one in every six weekend nighttime drivers were positive for over-the-counter, illicit, or prescription drugs and medications – with over 11 percent testing positive for illegal drugs. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health states that prior to being surveyed, approximately 10.3 million individuals aged 12 or older reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs that same year.
While the effects of specific drugs on individuals can vary, they all impair the faculties necessary to operate a vehicle safely and properly. Such faculties include perception, motor skills, reaction time, attention, balance and coordination, and judgment. For some drugs, even the smallest amounts can have a considerable affect on an individual’s ability to drive.
One of the drugs must commonly detected in impaired drivers is marijuana. Although many people assume that marijuana is safer than alcohol, the truth is that the drug greatly impairs critical elements of safe driving – motor skills, judgment, and reaction. Additional factors are distorted perception, drowsiness, paranoia, and an inability to concentrate. While some reports reveal that the effect of getting behind the wheel after smoking marijuana is similar to driving after four beers, the reality is that many drivers drive with an increased level of impairment due to mixing alcohol with marijuana.
Also commonly detected in drugged drivers are stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines. While these stimulants are known to heighten an individual’s confidence and level of alertness, they can also distort the way a person perceives sound, lights, and other elements critical to safe driving. Stimulants also wear off quickly and without warning, which can result in extreme drowsiness and falling asleep behind the wheel. Confidence can also quickly transform into aggression, possibly resulting in episodes of road rage and reckless driving.
Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medication can also easily affect a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. Painkillers, tranquilizers, cold medicine, and antihistamines, for example, can cause drowsiness and slow down reaction times. By combining any of these medications with alcohol, an individual could seriously compromise his or her ability to function in numerous ways, including driving.
Although the spotlight has generally been on driving under the influence of alcohol, it must be known that drunk and drugged driving both need to be taken seriously. Drugged driving may not be as easily detected by law enforcement compared to drunk driving, but it can also lead to injury, criminal penalties, and fatalities.
Source: Driving Under the Influence: The Dangers of Drugged Driving, published on https://bradfordhealth.com/drugged-driving/.