The Dangers of Drugged Driving -

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The Dangers of Drugged Driving

The Dangers of Drugged Driving

Do we need more research done on drugged driving and how widespread it is? The problem could indeed be better understood if we had more knowledge about it. Still, the information we have especially about nationwide 2015 car accidents suggests that drugged driving is a real danger.

But is it as deadly as drunk driving? As we know, driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the leading causes of car accidents worldwide. Some safety experts caution that drunk driving is still more dangerous and more commonly encountered, but recent statistics may suggest otherwise. Let’s have a look at what the dangers of drug-impaired driving are and what can be done to prevent this behavior.

The Statistics of Drugged Driving

Drugged driving can be a problem both in older and younger age groups. Older adults, as well as teens and young adults, seem to be prone to driving under the influence of drugs, with over one-quarter of drugged drivers that were involved in deadly crashes aged 50 or older in 2010. They’re also the age group with an increase in illicit drug use, as it went from 2% to 7% over the course of eight years in people between 50 to 59 years of age.

When it comes to middle and high school students, a 2011 survey revealed interesting results. They hinted at drugs being a more significant problem for high school seniors, as 12% of them admitted to driving after using marijuana, opposed to 9% who operated under the influence of alcohol.


Drawing Accurate Conclusions from Statistics

We do have statistics, surveys, and reports, but it’s not easy to get a clear picture of the problem for various reasons. The first is that not all fatally injured drivers are tested for the presence of drugs or alcohol in their system. 43% fatally injured drivers were under the influence of drugs as opposed to 37% who were under the influence of alcohol in 2015, but only out of those who were tested, which was only 57%.

The second reason for the lack of large-scale understanding of the problem of drugged driving is that drivers often use both alcohol and drugs. With an alcohol field test via breathalyzer, officers can get quite enough evidence for a DUI charge. How many of those drivers are also under the influence of drugs? If tests stop at measuring alcohol levels and officers aren’t trained to recognize the symptoms of drug impairment, it’s almost impossible to make accurate conclusions about the actual number of people who drive while under the influence of drugs. There’s a definite need for better training and more complete resources to address this problem.

Variance in Definition of Drugged Driving

In the U.S., all 50 states have laws that prohibit driving under the influence of drugs. However, the definition of drug impairment can vary. Different definitions exist across the states, and some allow things that others don’t. For example, the recreational use of marijuana is permitted in eight states and DC. When it comes to using marijuana for medical purposes, the number of states that allow it rises to 29. It’s no wonder, then, that 35% of drivers who tested positive for drug impairment were under the influence of marijuana.

Another problem is that different states have different testing practices. In one state they might only screen a driver for marijuana, and in another, they may test for other drugs as well, such as amphetamines. Currently, there are no uniform laws to help determine what drugs are screened for and how often testing can be done.

Effect of Drugs on Drivers

While impairment when it comes to drugs isn’t as clearly defined as alcohol impairment is, there are still general guidelines as to what impairment is. Also, the effect of some drugs on drivers is well known and documented.

Depending on how a particular drug acts in the brain, it can hurt reaction times and judgment of distance. Marijuana has that effect, along with decreasing coordination. On the other hand, some drugs make drivers more aggressive and reckless, such as methamphetamine or cocaine. Sedatives can cause drowsiness and dizziness, creating a driver unable to control the vehicle.

All of these effects contribute heavily to the increase of lane weaving, inadequate attention to the road and slow reaction times. These consequences of drug impairment are quite severe and often result in fatal crashes.


The Widespread Use of Drugs by Drivers

Some recent statistics show that 11.8 million people drove under the influence of illicit drugs in 2016, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. When compared to the numbers for driving under the influence of alcohol — 20.7 million people in 2016 — it doesn’t seem like too many.

However, that number is significant and extremely worrying, especially in the light of the fact that drugs can impair drivers more seriously than alcohol. Because marijuana is often used alongside alcohol, cocaine or sedatives, there’s an increased risk of fatal crashes when any illicit drug is used.

Marijuana isn’t the only illicit drug frequently found to be used by drug-impaired drivers. Prescription drugs are also a big offender, with a 2010 study revealing them to be the drug of choice for drivers who tested positive for drugs — 47% of drivers were positive for prescription drugs.

Raising Awareness and Preventing Drugged Driving

It’s imperative to raise awareness of these issues and encourage people who struggle with alcohol and drug abuse to get the help they need. In the meantime, they can protect themselves and others on roads by avoiding driving while impaired. If that’s impossible, then they should aim to develop social strategies that keep them away from the wheel.

Those strategies include appointing a designated driver and not taking their car to parties where there is alcohol or drugs. The people around them could also offer to be designated drivers, as well as discuss the risks of driving while impaired.


It’s important to know that even if someone who has a history of driving after abusing drugs or alcohol hasn’t gotten into an accident yet, it’s only a matter of time if that behavior continues. Be responsible for yourself and the people around you and keep the roads safe.

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