Drug use and driving can be deadly, and unfortunately, the number of people behind the wheel who are under the influence of substances is the rise. Drugged driving occurs when someone is under the influence of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and/or illegal drugs.
Young people are at considerable risk for getting themselves in a position to suffer consequences as a result of drugged driving, whether they’re behind the wheel or riding as a passenger. StopDruggedDriving.org points out a statistic reported by Monitoring The Future that notes that “nearly 30% of high school seniors… put themselves at risk, by being in a vehicle whose driver had been using marijuana or another illicit drug, or had drunk 5 or more alcoholic drinks, in the two weeks prior to being surveyed.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s The Science of Drug Abuse & Addiction states that drugged driving can have different effects depending upon the drug(s) used. They report that marijuana can “slow reaction time, impair judgement of time and distance, and decreased motor coordination.” They also explain that there are many other drugs that will have very different outcomes. “Drivers who have used cocaine or methamphetamine can be aggressive and reckless when driving. Certain kinds of sedatives, called benzodiazepines, can cause dizziness and drowsiness, which can lead to accidents.” Add alcohol to the mix and you have even more potentiality for tragedy.
M A R I J U A N A
Slow reaction time, impair judgement of time and distance, and decrease motor coordination
C O C A I N E / M E T H
Can cause drivers to become aggressive, impulsive, and reckless
B E N Z O D I A Z E P I N E
Can cause dizziness and drowsiness, which can lead to accidents
The report states that the most common drugs found in those killed in accidents were “marijuana (34.7%) and amphetamines (9.7%).” There were other drugs that were commonly found which included “hydrocodone (6.9%) and oxycodone (3.6%), which are opioid pain medications; benzodiazepines (4.5%), which are found in anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications; and cocaine (4.5%).”
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) explains that Americans are aware of the tragic outcomes drunk driving and distracted driving may cause. Drugged driving is becoming more of a problem and is finally starting to be noticed more by the public. NCADD reports that prescription, over-the-counter, and illegal drugs all can impair perception, judgement, motor skills, memory, and reaction time, substantially hindering a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle.
NCADD also provides some details from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) National Roadside Survey. This survey finds that “more than 16% of weekend, night-time drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter medications (11% tested positive for illegal drugs).”
ScienceDaily explains that use of non-alcohol drugs “detected in fatally injured drivers in the U.S. has been steadily rising and tripled from 1999 to 2010 for drivers who tested positive for marijuana—the most commonly detected non-alcohol drug—suggesting that drugged driving may be playing an increasing role in fatal motor vehicle crashes.”
Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health addresses the testing of drugs in a person’s system. Dr. Guohua Li, Professor of Epidemiology and Director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention, states that “findings need to be carefully interpreted.” Dr. Li points out that after an accident a person may test positive for a drug, but may not have been impaired by that drug at the time of the accident. In addition, Dr. Li explains, “variations in individual tolerance and pharmacological characteristics of different drugs make it difficult to determine drug impairment. Also, there is no uniformly accepted definition of impairment for different drugs.”