There are many campaigns and organizations that promote awareness of drunk driving. But driving while under the influence of drugs, or “drugged driving,” is just as deadly. In fact, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health,drunk driving rates are dropping while drugged driving rates are slightly rising. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website is promoting awareness of the problem.
The NIDA states that after alcohol, the substance most often found in the system of a person who has been involved in a motor vehicle accident is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main ingredient in marijuana. Following marijuana were drugs like cocaine, benzodiazepines, and opiates.
The Effects of Drugs on the Ability to Drive
Driving under the influence of drugs can cause:
- Slower reaction time to stops, turns, or obstacles
- Less attention to traffic signs and pedestrians
- Impaired motor skills and balance
- Altered perceptions of distance between cars, speed, and direction
Many of these symptoms are similar to impairment from alcohol, yet curiously, not many television commercials or media ads are focusing on the problem.
Helping to Lower the Rates of Drugged Driving
Just as there are productive ways to prevent a drunk person from picking up the car keys and pulling out onto the street, there should be similar prevention strategies for individuals who are under the influence of drugs. Addiction and recovery specialists are in a unique position to help individuals and their friends and families find ways to be safe while the user is recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction.
Families and friends need to know that it’s okay to step in and intervene when a user is planning to drive while impaired. Seniors are at particular risk. Seniors who have taken too much of their prescription medicine may not realize that their perceptions and skills are impaired.
The NIDA says that in many serious motor vehicle accidents there is a mix of both alcohol and drugs in a person’s system. Together these substances can rapidly cause a person to lose their sense of control on the roadways. It doesn’t take much of either substance in combination to start to affect motor skills and mental skills and make a driving trip a risky and perhaps deadly one.