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What is Drugged Driving?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Drugged driving is a variation on drunk driving that involves driving while impaired. Drugged driving means driving under the influence of any drug that acts on the brain [and] could impair one’s motor skills, reaction time, and judgment.
The unfortunate truth is that drugged driving puts not only you but other drivers and passengers on the road at risk every time you get behind the wheel. Believe it or not, drugged driving is becoming a common occurrence
2007 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that more than 16% of drivers on the road at night on weekends tested positive for over-the-counter,
Consider some of the harmful effects of drugged driving below:
Males were 84% more likely to drive under the influence of drugs than females.
- 10.5 million Americans reported driving under the influence of drugs
- 18% of fatally injured drivers tested postive for drugs.
Clearly, DUIs and drugged driving are both major concerns on each and every roadway throughout the US. While neither practice is ever recommended, many drivers are under the misconception that drugged driving may be safer than drinking and driving.
To separate fact from fiction, driving drugged isn’t better than driving drunk, or vice versa.
Driving under the influence of any substance could be a matter of life and death. Even one slipup could cost you your life or the lives of those you love if they are riding as passengers in your vehicle.
Let’s explore the example of a popular drug like marijuana.
- Reaction Time
This means that if you smoke marijuana the night before and plan to drive to work in the morning, you will be driving under the influence of drugs. A drug like marijuana will affect your driving ability far longer than alcohol in your system.
Driving under the influence of marijuana can be more dangerous than driving after several drinks.
The federally funded driving impaired survey tested over 1300 drivers voluntarily through roadside breath and saliva sobriety tests. Survey results concluded that marijuana was the most popular “driving drug”, found in the system of 7.4% of drivers.
- 4% Alcohol & Multiple Drugs
- 12% Alcohol & One Drug
- 9% Multiple Drugs
- 15% Only Alcohol
- 34% No Drugs or Alcohol
- 26% One Drug
If you don’t fall into the category of a drugged or drunk driver, you may be wondering if it is safe to set foot behind the wheel ever again. While major awareness campaigns have swept the nation to curb instances of impaired driving, the problem remains prevalent.
30 million Americans continue to drive drunk, and 10 million Americans drive drugged each year.
Depending on the state, the number of drivers under the influence could rise as high as 20%. If you take a second to glance in the lane next to you on the highway
1 out of 5 cars that you see may contain a driver with alcohol or drugs in their system.
If you live in a state with a high drunk driving or drugged driving rate, you may not feel safe on the road. This is precisely why it is more important than ever before to bring awareness to the widespread trend of driving under the influence, whether driving drunk or driving drugged.
Read on to find out more about this hush-hush epidemic that could be affecting roadways in your very own town.
In some states, instances of drugged driving have spiked within just a few years. The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety confirms a whopping 4005 drugged driving arrests in 2012 compared to just 694 drugged driving arrests in 2008.
In four years, drugged driving arrests have more than quadrupled in the state of Arizona.
To paint a clearer picture, here are a few important facts to consider about this alarming national pastime:
- 16.9% men were drugged
- 3952 fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs.
- 23% of fatally injured drivers under age 25 tested positive for drugs.
Statistics from a Maryland trauma center confirmed:
- 34% of crash victims under the influence of drugs
- 16% of crash victims under the influence of alcohol
- 6.3% Teen Drivers
- 24.8% Young Adult Drivers
As you connect the dots, you may soon realize that younger drivers are more likely to drive with drugs in their system. Statistics estimated that 6.3% of teen drivers from ages 16 to 17 drove under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 2009. This number increased further to 24.8% among young adult drivers from ages 21 to 25. After the age of 25, drugged driving rates drop drastically.
*The percentage of 12th graders who have used these drugs in the past year.
- 7.6% Vicodin
- 7.5% cold medicines
- 5.6% Tranqquilizers
- 5.3% oxycontin
- 4.3% Ritalin
- 2.6% methaqualone/quaaludes
- 0.4% marijuana
- 36.4% Powder Cocaine
- 2.7% Crack
- 1.2% Methamphetamine
- 1.1% Heroine
- 0.6% Prescription Illicit Drugs
For this very purpose, Whitehouse.gov published this handbook. The handbook points out that while drugged driving is never recommended, driving under the influence of drugs may be an even greater risk for teens, who are considered inexperienced drivers.
A sober teen is more likely to get into a crash than a sober adult. When you add to that the influence of drugs, whether it is marijuana, prescription pills, or over-the-counter cough medicine, the likelihood of a fatal crash for a teen driver increases considerably.
Prevention is key to keep teens sober and safe behind the wheel. The White House encourages both parent and youth outreach activities that will raise awareness of teen drugged driving, provide educational tools, offer tips and advice, and increase local media coverage to bring this dangerous issue to light.
The highest rate of drugged drivers across-the-board falls into the 18-25 age bracket, according to 2011 statistics. 11.6% of drivers in this age group have driven under the influence of drugs.
And speaking of dangers… It’s time to explore the hazards of drugged driving and how driving under the influence of drugs can affect your cognizance behind the wheel.
Marijuana, a drug that is slowly becoming legal in the US, is one of the most popular substances used by drugged drivers. However, just because marijuana may be legalized at a national level in the future doesn’t mean it is safe when paired with driving. In the same way that alcohol use must be monitored prior to driving, smoking marijuana should never be considered a “safe activity” before hitting the open road.
- Meth (Methamphetamines/ amphetamines)
- Prescription drugs
- Over-the-counter drugs
Similar to alcohol use, smoking marijuana before driving will make it hard to react to traffic signals or sudden changes on the road. It may be difficult to accurately judge distances between cars or other objects on the road, making it even easier to clip a car, pole, or fence to cause an accident.
If you are taking an over-the-counter or prescription medication, it’s critical to read warning labels in detail before you step foot in a car. Even if you only plan to go to the corner store to refill your prescription after getting your wisdom teeth out, that quick trip could be time enough to get into a serious accident – just a few miles from home.
Prescription medications like benzodiazepines and opiate-based pain relievers often have warning labels against driving under the influence of these drugs as they are known to affect the brain and impair driving ability. Other medication warning labels may caution against operating heavy machinery, which includes driving a car.
In a worst-case scenario, drugged driving could be responsible for your injury or death, as well as other passengers and drivers on the road. At “best”, you may be pulled over, arrested, and convicted of driving under the influence of drugs.
- Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI)- Driver cannot operate a motor vehicle due to alcohol or drug impairment.
- Operating While Intoxicated (OWI)-Driver cannot operate a motor vehicle due to alcohol or drugs in the system.
- Operating With Any Presence of a Schedule-1 Drug or Cocaine (OWPD)
Driver operating a motor vehicle with even a trace of illegal drugs in their system, confirmed in a chemical test.
- Under Age 21 Operating With Any Bodily Alcohol
- Content (Zero Tolerance)
Minor driver operating a motor vehicle with any presence of alcohol or drugs in their system. Make no mistake that in every state, law enforcement is on the lookout for drivers that may appear to be impaired.
According to police, a driver may exhibit warning signs on the road, like:
- Weaving in a lane
- Wandering from lane to lane
- Driving on the shoulder
- Stopping too slowly or too quickly Driving too slow or too fast
- Failing to obey traffic signs
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
When it comes to drugged driving prevention, knowledge is power. As mentioned above, the White House advocates national awareness campaigns, like a Prevention Night among teens in local communities. A Prevention Night can be used to bring neighborhoods together to discuss the realities and dangers of drugged driving; the event may feature a guest speaker and provide take-home resource materials for all who attend.
Since teens are the highest risk group for drugged driving, many of these national crackdown campaigns focus on young drivers.
National Impaired Driving Prevention Month in December.
December was designated as the ideal month to run this campaign since it is one of the busiest and most dangerous times of the year to travel throughout the US. MADD estimates that 25 people were killed per day in drunk driving accidents in December 2010 alone.
Each year, December is used to raise awareness about driving impaired under the influence of alcohol or drugs. President Obama supports this campaign as a way to teach all citizens to “make responsible decisions and take appropriate measures to prevent impaired driving.”
Throughout the US, there are several important steps we can take to put an
end to drugged driving – if we all work together:
- Promote zero-tolerance policies for drugged/impaired driving.
- Driver education-help new drivers understand the grave dangers of drugged driving, as well as the consequences.
- Parents as role models- teach young drivers by example that drugged driving is never acceptable, under any circumstance.
- Teen driver monitoring-limit risky behaviors that could increase the risk of an accident, such as texting and driving, nighttime driving, and impaired driving.
- Responsible prescription drug use-encouragement for patients to always read prescription drug labels carefully and avoid contraindications, such as mixing prescription meds with other drugs or alcohol.
- “DrugFacts: Drugged Driving | National Institute on Drug Abuse.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Web. 25 July 2013.
- “National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month | Visual.ly.” Infographics & Data Visualization | Visual.ly. Web. 25 July 2013.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Volume I. Summary of National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-38A, HHS Publication No. SMA 10-4856Findings). Rockville, MD.
- “Drugged driving bigger problem in California than drunk driving – San Jose Mercury News.” Home – San Jose Mercury News. Web. 25 July 2013.
- Reinberg, Steven. “40 Million in U.S. Driving Drunk or Drugged – US News and World Report.” Health News Articles – US News Health. Web. 25 July 2013.
- “Drugged Driving | The White House.” The White House. Web. 25 July 2013.
- “Teen Drugged Driving.” www.whitehouse.gov. Web. 26 July 2013.