Most drivers and passengers are aware of the risks of drunk driving. But are you aware of the risks of drugged driving? From cold medicine to prescription medication to illegal substances, drugs can affect the way you drive and may significantly impair your ability to drive safely.
Consider the Facts
- According to the DEA, 3.6% of the U.S. population reported driving under the influence of illegal drugs in 2001.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that illegal drugs are used by approximately 10-22 percent of drivers involved in all motor vehicle crashes.
- According to the White House report on drugged driving, even drugs prescribed by a physician, can impair perception, judgment, motor skills, and memory
Not every drug affects people the same way. One illegal drug might slow a driver down, causing delayed reaction times and additional risks as a result. Another might impair judgment, causing erratic or reckless driving. Another drug might cause changes in behavior that lead to aggressive driving. Some painkillers make drivers sleepy and sluggish, and thus dangerous behind the wheel. Because drivers may have both alcohol and drugs in their system, it isn’t always easy to pinpoint exactly what caused the impairment. It’s difficult to characterize the specific impairments of driving drugged because of the broad spectrum of effects of being on various drugs. Despite this, it’s important to focus on the fact that any drug that affects things like mood, judgment and motor skills has the ability to significantly impair driving.
The Bottom Line
Drugged drivers shouldn’t get behind the wheel. Passengers should not get in the car with someone who is on drugs. Teens may not understand that smoking a joint and driving is as serious as having several beers and driving. Unfortunately, this kind of casual attitude toward drugged driving can lead to motor vehicle accidents and death. Consider that according to the CDC, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among young people aged 16 to 19. Set an example by never getting behind the wheel when taking drugs that can cause impairment. Talk to your teen about drugged driving and the risks. Make sure that your teen understands that drugged driving and drunk driving are equally risky and illegal.