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Drugged Driving: The Risks Are Real

drugged driving

Forty-four percent of drivers killed in car crashes in 2016 tested positive for drugs; 38 percent tested for marijuana, 16 percent for opioids and 4 percent had both, according to the latest figures from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). What’s more, 49 percent of drivers were found to mix drugs and alcohol.

“Alcohol-impaired driving and drug-impaired driving can no longer be treated as separate issues,” Ralph Blackman, president and CEO of Responsibility.org., a foundation that promotes responsible use of alcohol, told HealthDay. “To curb impaired driving, we have to think about the combination of substances drivers are often putting into their systems at the same time.”

Impairment is impairment, regardless of the substance, Jonathan Adkins, GHSA executive director, said in a news release. Drugged driving puts the driver, passengers and others who share the road at risk. Here’s a look at how a few different drugs can negatively impact your driving, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Marijuana has been found to slow reaction time, impair judgment of time and distance, alter attention to the road and increase lane weaving.
  • Use of alcohol with marijuana can result in more impaired driving and more lane weaving.
  • Opioids can slow reaction time, cause drowsiness or cloud judgment.
  • Cocaine or methamphetamine use can lead to aggressive and reckless driving.
  • Benzodiazepines can cause dizziness and drowsiness.

Unfortunately, there are numerous challenges when it comes to deterring drugged driving. For one, many different drugs have different impairing effects and it’s difficult to test for all of them, notes GHSA. And to date there’s no nationally accepted way of testing drivers for drugs. In an effort to curb the growing problem, the Governors Highway Safety Association and Responsibility.org have teamed up to train roughly 1,000 police officers to recognize and stop drugged drivers.

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