For many years, the primary focus for preventing impaired driving was aimed at alcohol. Although drunk driving is certainly a deadly activity, people under the influence of other substances have quietly become just as lethal.
A recent report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility presented some disturbing facts about drugged driving, but also issue recommendations on how to reduce this problem nationally as well as on a state level. “Every state must take steps to reduce drug-impaired driving, regardless of the legal status of marijuana,” said Jonathan Adkins, Executive Director of GHSA. “This is the first report to provide states and other stakeholders with the information they need.”
One of the areas of concern includes the increase in the number of people driving under the influence of marijuana. As the report notes, 23 states now have medical marijuana laws and four have approved recreational use. This has meant a larger percentage of people on the roads who are high.
Even more of an issue is the number of people who are driving after taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Whether following prescription dosage or abusing them, these substances can often impair people more than they realize. Too many people operate vehicles after taking these drugs under the assumption that it is perfectly fine. However, impaired is still impaired.
The most disastrous scenario is when people drink and take drugs, as the combination of use creates greater impairment and causes more harm. Many times the effects of both the alcohol and the drugs are amplified by each other, and there are also additional symptoms as a result.
The Governors Highway Safety Association recommends that each state review its drugged driving laws and also invests in more information and awareness campaigns regarding the behavior.
According to the latest information released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are less people in the country who are drinking and riving. Unfortunately, more people have started to abuse other drugs and get behind the wheel. These are according to the Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers.
It is important to realize that drugs are in no way safer to take when driving than alcohol – it is still impaired driving. Impairment means people aren’t able to make quick decisions, think logically or maneuver accordingly. The NHTSA says that about 22% of drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect their ability to drive. “The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes,” explained Mark Rosekind, head of the Administration.
With the growing acceptance of marijuana use in some areas, more and more drivers are feeling that it is ok to consume pot and get behind the wheel. A recent survey conducted in Virginia showed that drivers under the influence of marijuana were more likely to be involved in vehicle accidents. Researches on the study also caution that the age group that is more likely to consume marijuana while driving is also part of an age group that, statistically gets in more accidents – young men. Those two factors combined make for a dangerous driving environment for all drivers on the road.
“Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness,” explained NHTSA’s Jeff Michael.
In order to reduce potentially fatal accidents that involve impaired drivers, it is essential that people refrain from abusing anything before driving. While most of the information out there is geared towards preventing driving while under the influence of alcohol, it is just as vital to remain abstinent from other drugs as well.
With the push for marijuana legalization in parts of the country, many new ways of ingesting the drug are coming onto the market. Users can now purchase vaporizer pens (very similar to e-cigarettes) that make smoking the drug easier to do in public situations. In addition to the pens, users always have the option of ingesting marijuana through food. Making marijuana accessible in these forms poses a new problem for law enforcement – the potential for more people to be operating vehicles while under the influence is likely to increase. In fact, now that marijuana is starting to become legal in some states, new laws and more precautions will need to be taken in order to minimize the amount of people driving under the influence of marijuana. Perhaps even more dangerous are those who ingest marijuana and consume alcohol at the same time.
A 2013 study showed that people were two times more likely to crash if they were under the influence of drugs. If a person is under the influence of alcohol they are fourteen times more likely to be involved in a car accident. If a person is under the influence of drugs and alcohol they are 23 times more likely to be involved in a vehicular crash.
A Colorado man knows first-hand how mixing substances impairs a driver, according to reports. Eleven days after the state made marijuana legal; he crashed his vehicle into a row of police cars. He was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol at the time of the crash. Being under the influence of alcohol and getting behind the wheel is commonly known as deadly – drunk driving accounts for one-third of traffic-related deaths. Mixing drugs like marijuana and alcohol has the potential to surpass drunk driving in overall consequences though.
Now that marijuana is becoming more common place it is necessary to look into preventing more and more impaired drivers from hitting the roads. If users can now consume marijuana using a form of an e-cigarette what will stop them from using it in a bar while they are having some drinks?
This information shows that people don’t have to be “wasted” to be extremely dangerous on the roads. The combination of even small amounts of alcohol and marijuana combined create a very lethal situation behind the wheel.