Drunk driving has always been a major issue when it comes to road safety. Driver’s Ed classes touch on drink driving, and TV and internet ads have been used to warn against the dangers of alcohol while operating a vehicle.
However, as prescription medications and other illicit drugs become more popular, “drugged” driving may be the new term everyone uses. Drugged driving envelopes not only alcohol, but all substances which can cause impairment on the road.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, a 2013 survey estimated that almost 4% of teens and adults had used illicit drugs while driving in the previous year. While that may not seem like very much, it actually estimates to 9.9 million drugged drivers.
While alcohol is by far the most common link to drugged driving, marijuana is the second. According to the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey, 12.6% of nighttime, weekend drivers tested positive for THC. As marijuana becomes legalized in more states, both recreationally and medically, its use while driving may become more of an issue.
The above infographic outlines the statistics of alcohol vs. marijuana use while driving. In short, being under the influence of marijuana while driving is much more common than being drunk while driving, even though it can still be dangerous. Driving while high DOES impair motor skills, even if it’s not as extreme as driving while drunk.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has built a huge driving simulation machine which helps understand the effects of various substances on driving. This machine is called the National Advanced Driving Simulator. Below is a video that sheds a little light on the effects of marijuana and alcohol when driving, as revealed by the simulation.
Teens and young adults are at the most risk from drugged driving. According to NIH, vehicle crashed are the leading cause of death for people aged 16 to 19 years old. Teens and young adults tend to drive more recklessly, and are more likely to ignore signs of dangerous driving. Combined with the effects of drugs and alcohol while on the road, drugged driving in young people can be especially dangerous.
Reducing the chances that someone drives while under the influence of drugs and alcohol is all about planning. Having a designated driver who remains sober can be a lifesaver. Sometimes, though, using drugs or alcohol can be a spontaneous decision, leaving someone unable to get home. In this event, calling a taxi or using Uber can be a safe route. If that’s not possible, it might be necessary to sleep overnight wherever the partying happened. It may feel embarrassing to have to stay over, but it’s worth it compared to driving drugged.