Monday, December 11th, 2017

Raising awareness of driving under the influence

Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2015

By Kelly Sickafoose, LACE Coordinator

December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Driving while using any substance that affects your ability to think and react is “impaired driving.”  Driving can be impaired by alcohol, illegal drugs and even some prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

The problem is big. Every day approximately 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes. Thirty-eight percent of people who died in automobile accidents in 2013 and were tested had detectable levels of potentially impairing drugs, both illegal and legal, in their system. That is nearly the same percentage as those that tested positive for alcohol. The most common drugs were marijuana (34.7%) and amphetamines (9.7%). Other drugs commonly detected in people killed in accidents were hydrocodone (6.9%) and oxycodone (3.6%), which are opioid pain medications; benzodiazepines (4.5%), which are found in anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications and cocaine (4.5%).

There are a lot of impaired drivers on the roadways. In 2012, 29.1 million people admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol – more than the population of Texas. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 9.9 million people aged 12 or older (or 3.8 percent of adolescents and adults) reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs during the prior year. According to NHTSA, more than 16% of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter medications (11% tested positive for illegal drugs). Drivers who tested positive for marijuana or illegal drugs rose from 12.4% in 2007 to 15.1% in 2013 and 2014.

Alcohol and drugs affect driving in different ways. Alcohol, sedatives, and painkillers cause a driver to: react too slowly; see double or blurred images; and inaccurately judge distances. Stimulant drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines (speed), can cause a driver to: drive aggressively; have blurred or limited vision; and fall asleep at the wheel when the drug wears off. Marijuana affects a person’s ability to: react quickly; judge time, speed, and distance; and concentrate on driving. Heroin may make a person hallucinate, and make it difficult to concentrate. Over-the-counter cold, cough, or allergy medicines, and even some herbal remedies may:  make a driver sleepy; distort vision and reduce coordination; and react with other drugs or alcohol to make their effects stronger.

Research suggests that the dangers of driving while intoxicated are irrefutable. Even small amounts of alcohol or other drugs can affect a person’s driving. Studies have found that the crash risk is two times higher in drivers with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.07 to 0.09, and it shoots up to four times higher in those with BAC of 0.1. It is dangerous and illegal to drive while under the influence of any drug. Don’t take chances. Don’t put your life and the lives of others at risk.

For more information, please visit us on Facebook at Local Anti-Drug Coalition Efforts - LACE.