Drugs and Driving: A Dangerous Collision

drugged driving

We know that driving under the influence (DUI) is illegal, not to mention, dangerous. Every day in the United States, about 29 people die in motor vehicle crashes that involve a drunk driver. In a year, over one million drivers are arrested for driving while impaired – sometimes under the influence of alcohol, and sometimes under the influence of drugs. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drugged driving is illegal in every state across the nation.

Whether prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, or illegal street drugs, taking drugs and getting behind the wheel is one of the most dangerous things you can do. We’ll put this into perspective. In 2016, 44 percent of drivers involved in fatal car crashes tested positive for drugs. More than 50 percent of these drivers, among those killed in car accidents, had multiple drugs in their system.

Drugs and driving are a dangerous combination. This is because of the mind-altering effects that drugs have on the brain – disrupting our ability to pay attention, react, balance, and coordinate correctly. Marijuana – most commonly used drug while driving, just after alcohol – is a stand-out example. Smoking marijuana slows reaction times in users, and impairs their ability to concentrate or pay attention fully to the road. Even common prescription drugs like Percocet, however, can have dangerous side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, anxiety, impaired coordination, slowed reaction time, blurred vision, and fainting.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently published a new infographic on the topic of "drugged driving,” which they define as “driving while under the influence of legal or illegal substances.” According to the NIDA, drugged driving puts the driver, passengers, and others on the road in danger, and statistics prove this point. Drugs are a driving factor in 44 percent of deadly car accidents.

According to the Center of Disease Control, young people are more likely to be involved a vehicle crash than adults, at all blood alcohol concentration levels. Among drivers with BAC levels of 0.08% or higher involved in fatal crashes in 2016, more than half were between the ages of 21 and 34 years old.

Young people are more likely to get behind the wheel while under the influence, largely due to their phase of brain development. For teenagers and young adults under 25, the brain has not fully matured. The parts dedicated to rational thinking, decision-making, and self-control has yet to fully develop. They are more likely to think on impulse or that they will be okay to drive after taking drugs. It’s a feeling of “that won’t happen to me.”

It is up to parents and guardians, educators and mentors, to teach our children about the dangers of drugs and driving. Even a couple drinks, or a couple hits of marijuana, or a couple of pills prescribed by the doctor, can have a detrimental and lasting impact when you hit the road. According to the NIDA, marijuana impairs a person’s judgement of time and distance. Methamphetamine and cocaine cause aggressive and reckless behaviors, which should never be taken on the road. Opioids or painkillers cause drowsiness and impaired thinking skills, while sedatives cause dizziness and drowsiness.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests some strategies for preventing drugged driving:

  • Having a designated driver, or offering to be one
  • Having a designated driver take all car keys
  • Getting a ride to and from places or parties with drugs and alcohol (such as an Uber, or parents)
  • Avoiding parties where alcohol and drugs are present
  • Talking with others about the risks of drugs and driving

As parents of a teenager or young adult under age 21, it’s important to focus on prevention and helping your child stay away from dangerous drugs and alcohol. If your son or daughter is in recovery and at risk of relapse, this is especially critical. Another strategy is having open conversations with your teen or young adult. The more honest and open your child is with you, the more you will know about where he or she is going, and what is going on in his or her life. This can be a major factor in keeping your child safe and off the road while intoxicated.

Many people – parents, teenagers, and adults young and old – only associate DUI and DWI with alcohol. But last year, drugs and driving surpassed drunk driving in traffic fatalities. Driving while high is dangerous, but can be prevented. For more information about drugs and driving, please do not hesitate to contact Turnbridge at 877-581-1793. If you have a loved one battling a drug problem, we can also help. Contact us to find out how to get your loved one back on the road to recovery.