Substance abuse can be dangerous at any time, but it is more dangerous when the individual starts driving a car. Operating a vehicle while under the influence of any drug can increase the risk of accidents, even if you or a loved one is taking a medication for legitimate medical reasons. It is important to recognize the risks of drugged driving so that you or your loved ones can take appropriate precautions when taking a prescription medication.
Drugged Driving Statistics
Drugged driving refers to any driving that takes place while an individual is using a substance. Depending on the substance, it may refer to illicit drugs, prescriptions or any substance that alters the way that you or a loved one reacts.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 10.3 million Americans reported driving a vehicle after taking a drug in 2012. That accounts for roughly 3.9 percent of individuals who are 12 years old or older. Since the estimates in 2011 were about 3.7 percent of Americans, the rates of driving under the influence of any drug are increasing.
Along with the higher rates of drugged driving, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that roughly 11.2 percent of the population from 12 years old and older have reported drinking alcohol and driving a car. When over-the-counter medications, prescriptions and illicit substances are considered, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc. explains that roughly 16 percent of weekend drivers admit to using some type of drug or medication. Furthermore, about 18 percent of drivers who are fatally injured in an accident test positive for some type of illicit substance or medication, says the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc.
Using a drug, even if it is an over-the-counter medication, can have an impact on your ability to drive. It is important to take measures to ensure that someone is available to handle the driving if you or a loved one has taken a medication of any type.
Why Drugged Driving is Dangerous
Although the statistics give a good indication of the reasons to avoid using drugs and driving, the exact impact of a particular substance can depend on the potential effects. Certain substances are more likely to cause impairments and problems when compared to other drugs; however, it is always best to avoid driving when you have taken any drug or medication, even if it is an over-the-counter medication.
The primary reasons to avoid drugged driving include:
- Slower reaction times
- Impaired motor skills
- Poor coordination
- Poor balance
- Changes to perception and vision
- Changes to attention or poor concentration
- Inability to make quick judgments
Some substances are more likely to cause problems when compared to others and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc. explains that part of the reason that accidents continue is related to laws. Unlike alcohol, which has a clear legal limit, medications do not have a standard measurement to determine if it impacts an individual’s ability to drive.
Although an illicit substance will result in charges when you or a loved one has been driving, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications may not have clear determinations about the dangers and risks. Standards related to impairment can be complicated and certain substances, like over-the-counter medications, may not be as easy to recognize as a dangerous substance.
Since drugs can impact the way that an individual perceives his or her surroundings, it is important to take measures to reduce the risks when you or a loved one is taking a prescription medication or an over-the-counter medication. You should also be aware of the risks associated with illicit substance abuse and driving after using any type of drug.
The best way to avoid accidents, whether you or a loved one is taking a prescription or has used an illicit substance, is to avoid driving. If it is possible to stay in the location where the substance was taken, like a doctor’s office, then avoid getting behind the wheel of a car.
If it is not possible to stay in the location where the substance was taken, then you or a loved one should ask for a different individual to drive the car. Having a designated driver when you or a loved one is taking a medication can ensure that the risks are limited.
When you are concerned about a loved one’s illicit substance abuse or behaviors, it may be time to ask for professional help. Professionals can provide the treatment and services that you and your family need to help a loved one who is abusing drugs.
Drugged driving is a serious problem that causes several traffic fatalities each year. Taking measures to avoid the risks when a medication is prescribed or asking for professional help when a loved one is using drugs can be an important part of avoiding fatal accidents on the road.