The Deadly Problem of Drugged Driving


Driving whereas underneath the affect of medication is without doubt one of the most harmful and irresponsible issues an individual can do — but, it’s a phenomenon that happens day-after-day. The issue of drugged driving has been growing in frequency and severity for a few years, and understanding the scope of the problem is important to non-public and public security.

On this information, we’ll clarify how prevalent the problem is and the way completely different medicine have an effect on drivers, so you possibly can turn into a greater advocate for secure driving.

What Is Drugged Driving?

Drugged driving is the act of working a motorized vehicle whereas impaired by the intoxicating results brought on by current drug use. It makes driving extraordinarily unsafe, simply as ingesting alcohol earlier than driving does. When somebody drives underneath the affect of medication, they create critical dangers for themselves, their passengers and anybody else on the street on the time.

What Substances Impair Driving?

Any substance that alters cognition can impair driving. Along with alcohol, harmful substances embrace illicit medicine like heroin or cocaine, legally-obtained medicine like opioid painkillers and nonetheless federally unlawful hashish. Listed here are some issues to recollect concerning the number of substances that trigger impairment:

  • Many medicine, together with marijuana, impair drivers by slowing down response instances, decreasing coordination and affecting judgment.
  • Stimulant medicine like methamphetamine and cocaine trigger drivers to be extra reckless and aggressive whereas driving.
  • Many prescription and over-the-counter medicine are identified to trigger excessive dizziness or drowsiness whereas driving.
  • Polydrug use — using two or extra medicine on the identical time — leads to impairment ranges increased than the degrees produced by particular person medicine.

When a driver is impaired, she or he merely can not assess the extent of impairment precisely. When folks really feel completely different as a consequence of medicine, they drive completely different — and the one method to stop drugged driving is to keep away from driving after using any impairing substance.

driving under the influenceWhat Are the Results of Medication on Driving?

Every particular person drug impairs a driver’s capability to conduct themselves safely in a wide range of alternative ways. A few of the components to contemplate are the category of the drug, the quantity the individual has consumed and the individual’s prior expertise utilizing the drug in query. These are the most typical courses of medication utilized in accidents brought on by folks driving underneath the affect:


Alcohol is a kind of depressant that, in even small quantities, can have an effect on the talents and response instances essential to drive safely. Ingesting an excessive amount of and getting behind the wheel can impression the motive force’s:

  • Judgment
  • Coordination
  • Comprehension
  • Focus
  • Depth notion
  • Response time
  • Peripheral imaginative and prescient
  • Night time imaginative and prescient

Benzodiazepines and Different Depressants

This class of medication interacts closely with the central nervous system (CNS), miserable its exercise with a wide range of uncomfortable side effects that make for very harmful driving. The impairment results of benzodiazepines embrace:

  • Problem multitasking
  • Impaired imaginative and prescient
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired motor expertise and coordination
  • Slower reflexes
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Impaired judgment
  • Inattentiveness
  • Diminished pupil response to mild
  • Involuntary eye actions


drugged driving stimulantsThis group consists of medicine like cocaine and methamphetamine, in addition to pharmaceuticals akin to Adderall® and Ritalin®. These medicine change one’s notion of self and improve aggression in drivers. Different results embrace:

  • An inflated sense of self-confidence
  • Emotions of invincibility
  • Diminished inhibitions
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Impaired spatial notion
  • Inattentiveness
  • Impatience
  • Exaggerated reflexes
  • Elevated risk-taking


This drug class produces vivid auditory and visible hallucinations which are extremely distracting in any setting. If somebody takes a hallucinogen, akin to LSD, earlier than driving, they’ll have extreme issue separating hallucinations from actuality, resulting in poor decision-making and sudden reactions on the street. General symptoms of hallucinogen use embrace:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Slurred speech
  • Trembling
  • Impaired notion of time and distance
  • Slowed response time
  • Impaired cognition and issue focusing
  • Impulsivity


Irrespective of whether or not they had been obtained legally or illicitly, opioids have the identical vary of results on driving. The kind of opioid and its efficiency have an effect on the extent of impairment, however somebody who makes use of an opioid can anticipate:

  • Runny eyes and nostril
  • Sweating
  • Impaired capability to observe directions
  • Impaired coordination
  • Sedation and sleepiness
  • Slowed reflexes and response instances


Driving underneath the affect of hashish is commonly seen as much less harmful than doing so after consuming different medicine. Nonetheless, given the vary of results that may impair driving, that’s clearly not the case. Hashish causes:

  • Dry, crimson eyes
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Elevated urge for food
  • Elevated pulse and blood strain
  • Fragmented thought patterns
  • Inattentiveness
  • Extreme leisure
  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Reminiscence lapses
  • Impaired perceptions of time and distance
  • Slowed response instances

Driving Below the Affect of Alcohol

In accordance with the Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration, roughly one-third of all traffic-related deaths contain drunk drivers. Meaning each 50 minutes somebody dies in an accident with a drunk driver, taking practically 30 lives each single day.

In the USA, it’s unlawful to drive with a blood alcohol focus (BAC) increased than 0.08% — besides in Utah, the place the restrict is 0.05%. People with a BAC of 0.10% or increased are seven instances extra prone to find yourself in a deadly accident than somebody driving whereas sober.

Your BAC is determined by all kinds of things, out of your age and gender to your weight, well being and the way effectively your liver processes alcohol. On common, if a 160-pound individual drinks two 12-ounce beers in an hour, their BAC can be 0.04% — roughly half the authorized restrict. Despite the fact that they aren’t legally drunk, they’re nonetheless 1.4 instances extra prone to crash once they get behind the wheel.

Setting a authorized restrict for drunk driving provides legislation enforcement one thing to work with, but it surely nonetheless sends a harmful message — that so long as you’re not over the authorized restrict, it’s nonetheless secure to drive. This couldn’t be farther from the reality. Ingesting and driving don’t combine — it’s so simple as that.

On common, a drunk driver will get behind the wheel 80 instances earlier than their first arrest. That’s 80 alternatives to get into an accident and 80 alternatives to take somebody’s life as a result of they selected to drive underneath the affect.

Driving Below the Affect of Marijuana

driving under the influence of marijuana

Sadly, many individuals consider incorrect misconceptions about hashish and driving. Some folks assume that hashish doesn’t trigger vital impairment, whereas others even insist that the enjoyable results of the drug can truly make somebody drive extra safely — nonetheless, nothing could possibly be farther from the reality.

The unfold of state-level authorized hashish legal guidelines means extra folks have entry to marijuana than ever earlier than. At present, 11 states have legalized cannabis for leisure use and 33 states have medical marijuana packages. The proliferation of those legal guidelines has had a profound impression on drugged driving statistics involving hashish. One survey performed in Colorado decided that 69 % of hashish customers reported driving under the influence of marijuana a number of instances inside the previous yr, and a stunning 27 % admitted to driving excessive on an nearly day by day foundation. Moreover, most of the leisure customers indicated they didn’t consider hashish impaired their capability to drive safely.

 A 2016 report from Washington state makes it clear that this notion is each incorrect and very harmful. The AAA Basis for Site visitors Security found that after hashish was legalized for leisure use, fatal crashes involving drivers with recent marijuana use greater than doubled. In 2017, roughly 21 % of all drivers concerned in deadly crashes in 2017 had been THC-positive. There is no such thing as a doubt that driving underneath the affect of marijuana will increase the probability accidents and a visit ending in tragedy.

How Is Drugged Driving Impairment Assessed?

It’s comparatively easy to find out the extent of impairment in somebody who has been consuming alcohol utilizing a breathalyzer check. We’ve a long time of analysis indicating {that a} blood alcohol content material (BAC) of 0.08 % is the edge for impairment, and DUI legal guidelines are enforced accordingly. Nonetheless, we don’t have strong proof of drug ranges constantly correlating with clearly delineated impairment ranges.

There are numerous variables that have an effect on how medicine impair an individual. If somebody who has been utilizing medical marijuana for years decides to get behind the wheel after smoking, they may show half of the impairment indicators with twice the extent of THC of their blood in contrast with somebody who solely smokes occasionally.

One of many urged proposals for addressing cannabis-impaired driving has been to implement a blood THC restrict of 5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Nonetheless, the AAA Basis for Site visitors Security discovered that 70 % of cannabis-positive drivers arrested for driving underneath the affect has THC levels under five ng/ml. This means that the edge is each arbitrary and too lax. Moreover, greater than 75 % of arrested drivers additionally examined constructive for different medicine or alcohol, making it much more difficult to find out impairment ranges.

Way more analysis is critical to create particular and actionable profiles of hashish and different drug impairment for constant DUI enforcement.

How Frequent Is Drugged Driving?

The excellent news is that there was a big lower within the variety of drunk drivers. Nonetheless, the variety of folks taking medicine and driving has elevated to a worrying extent. The newest survey on the topic was collected in 2016. The self-reported outcomes revealed that 27.6 million People ages 16 and up drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol not less than as soon as. An extra 10.7 million folks drove whereas cannabis-impaired. This consists of one in 10 drivers ages 16 to twenty, for whom hashish is unlawful in all states.

The Nationwide Roadside Survey (NRS) is a software utilized by the Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration (NHTSA) that has solely been performed 5 instances over the previous 40 years as a consequence of its immense scope. The survey is each voluntary and nameless, accumulating data from 300 websites throughout the nation. The most recent NRS was performed from 2014 to 2014. A few of its key findings embrace:

  • The proportion of drivers with alcohol of their programs declined about 30 % between 2007 and 2014, with an total drop of 80 % because the first NRS in 1973.
  • In 2014, round 20 % of drivers examined constructive for a number of medicine, in comparison with 16.3 % in 2007.
  • About 12 % of drivers confirmed proof of marijuana use, in comparison with 8.6 % in 2007.
  • Greater than 15 % of drivers examined constructive for a number of unlawful medicine in 2014, up from 12 % in 2007.

The difficulty of driving underneath the affect of medication (DUID) is clearly on the rise, regardless of efforts to curb the issue.

Who Is at Danger for Drugged Driving?

who is at risk for drugged drivingWhereas anybody who makes use of medicine has a danger of getting behind the wheel whereas intoxicated, two groups are particularly vulnerable. Teen and younger grownup drivers, who’ve much less expertise and are much less in a position to establish harmful conditions on the street, are additionally extra prone to take part in drugged driving. A 2018 study of young adults ages 18 to 25 performed in an emergency division revealed disturbing drugged driving statistics concerning the age group, together with:

  • About 24 % reported drugged driving inside the final yr. 
  • About 25 % of drugged drivers engaged in 10 or extra cases of drugged driving up to now yr. 
  • About 96 % of drugged drivers reported driving after using marijuana. 

Older adults are additionally vulnerable to drugged driving, however they’re most probably to be utilizing pharmaceuticals. Psychological decline could lead to taking a prescription too often, not often sufficient or within the fallacious dosage. Older adults might also take longer to eradicate medicine from their our bodies than youthful folks, which may result in unintended intoxication whereas driving. 

What Does the Legislation Say About Drugged Driving?

With drugged driving on the rise, how does the legislation deal with this important situation? There are three major classes of legislation that deal with driving underneath the affect of medication:

1. Per Se and Zero-Tolerance Legal guidelines

Per se legal guidelines tie impairment to ranges of medication or metabolites current the physique. The interpretation of “per se” is “in itself,” indicating that having a selected degree of a substance current is sufficient to represent against the law. Many states have zero-tolerance per se legal guidelines, which means that having any degree of unlawful medicine or their metabolites within the physique is a violation. With regards to alcohol, all underage ingesting is prosecuted equally to illicit medicine underneath zero-tolerance legal guidelines as a result of any alcohol consumption is unlawful underneath the age of 21.

One of many arguments towards zero-tolerance per se legal guidelines is that having a metabolite or drug within the physique shouldn’t be proof that an individual is definitely impaired. This can be a drawback largely related to hashish, as its metabolites are detectable for days or weeks after the final use — lengthy past the drug’s window of impairment.

2. Tandem Per Se DUID

As a method to deal with the issues related to zero-tolerance legal guidelines for DUID, the American Car Affiliation has urged a brand new two-part construction that may extra moderately decide whether or not marijuana use has impaired a driver. The proposed system incorporates behavioral proof of impairment, akin to sluggish reflexes, poor coordination and slurred speech with physiological proof of impairment by way of drug testing for current use. This framework will increase certainty of DUID for the prosecution.

3. Administrative License Revocation

At present, 42 states and the District of Columbia have administrative license revocation (ALR) legal guidelines for these caught driving inebriated. If a driver refuses to take a breathalyzer check or fails the check, legislation enforcement officers can confiscate the person’s driver’s license. The arresting officer can take the license proper on the roadside, and the suspension or revocation is taken into account an administrative sanction moderately than a legal punishment. A number of states have proposed extending these ALR legal guidelines to drugged driving as soon as extra correct assessments are developed.

What Are Some Methods to Stop Drugged Driving?

Whereas legislation enforcement and a wide range of organizations are working onerous to tell the general public concerning the risks of drugged driving, there are additionally steps you possibly can take to be sure to and the folks round you aren’t contributing to drugged driving statistics. Some key ideas embrace:

  • Provide to be the designated driver.
  • Acquire all keys from folks you understand have been utilizing medicine.
  • Everytime you attend an occasion the place medicine and alcohol are current, get a journey moderately than driving your self.
  • Take the time to speak to your family and friends concerning the dangers related to drugged driving.

It’s vital to do not forget that drugged driving isn’t only a drawback with illicit medicine. In case you are taking any over-the-counter or prescription drugs, it’s your accountability to totally learn all warning labels earlier than taking the product and driving a automobile. Take warnings to not function motor autos severely, and don’t drive if they’re current. When you have questions on your treatment, make sure you seek the advice of your pharmacist.

gateway foundation treat drugged driving offendersStudy Extra From Gateway Basis

Medication and driving ought to by no means combine, however when dependancy is a part of the equation, the chance of drugged driving will increase considerably. Gateway Basis is devoted to serving to cease drug abuse with evidence-based dependancy drugs and a number of remedy modalities.

To seek out out extra concerning the results of drugged driving and dependancy, in addition to the way you or a liked one can search therapeutic by way of dependancy therapy, name Gateway Basis at 877.505.4673 or contact us online.


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