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.
Xanax, or alprazolam, is an anti-anxiety drug that is widely prescribed to people who struggle with mental health-related issues. Many people suffer from such severe anxiety disorders that they are required to take the medication on a daily basis. Other people only use Xanax when they are in situation that produces anxiety for them, like a plane or an important event. Alprazolam is also a drug that causes impairment, and people taking it should not be driving or operating machinery.
Xanax is one of the most abused prescription drugs on the market, and many people develop a severe dependency to the drug, whether taken by itself or in combination with other substances. The millions of people who have taken the drug, either abusing it or using it by prescription, has increased the number of people cited for driving under the influence of the drug. In fact, Xanax has actually become the second-most common drug in DUI cases, having surpassed marijuana.
“I have no doubt that people who use Xanax for anxiety get some relief from these drugs. But we should steer away from medicines that require daily use for an extended period of time,” explained Peter Hendricks, a chemical psychologist. His point being that drugs like this can cause a serious dependency and addiction that can become more damaging than the original problem. Many professionals are now recommending finding other ways to deal with mental health problems, if possible, before resorting to medications that have a high potential for abuse.
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.