UNION COUNTY — December is recognized as National Drunk and Drugged driving Awareness Month. This is a great time to bring awareness about the negative consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Drunk drinking is dangerous and is a major health risk to everyone on the roads. We tend to overlook drugged driving which is also a serious problem.
There’s a misconception that being under the influence of prescription drugs and marijuana is not as dangerous as drinking and driving. However, the truth is, impaired driving whether, alcohol, prescription drugs, marijuana or any drug, is still impairment.
With December being one of the busiest and most dangerous months for highway travel and drug related traffic accidents, due to the holiday season, this is a time to focus our efforts toward recognizing the risks and reducing the prevalence of driving under the influence of any drug.
How Do Drugs Affect Driving?
Drugs — whether prescription, over-the-counter or illegal drugs — can impair necessary driving skills including vision, reaction time, judgment, hearing, and simultaneous task processing/accomplishment. Driving requires other cognitive skills, such as information processing and psychomotor skills, which may also be impaired by the use of drugs. When drugs are mixed with alcohol, the results can be devastating.
Alcohol and other drugs impair a person’s driving in various different ways. Even in low doses, alcohol can significantly reduce driving performance by reducing braking time, speed control and diverting attention. It can also contribute to motorists weaving between lanes or driving abruptly or aggressively. For example, research shows drivers with a 0.5 per cent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) react much slower to potential road hazards than when they are sober.
A driver affected by cannabis may drive too slowly and find it difficult to drive within designated lanes or stay awake.
Amphetamines and ecstasy can lead to speeding or erratic driving as well as reduced vision and increased risk taking behind the wheel.
Drunk Driving Prevention
• All drivers must understand that drugged driving is as dangerous as drunk driving and that driving under the influence of certain prescription medication is considered impaired driving
• As with a drunk driver, NEVER ride in a car with a driver you suspect is under the influence
• Designate a sober driver before the celebration begins
• Never serve those under the age of 21
• Plan safe parties, including having non-alcoholic drinks available for guests and not serving alcohol during the last hour of the party
Although the substances are different, the results are the same, needless deaths and injuries.
• Drunk Driving cost adults in the US $800 year
• Each day, people drive drunk almost 300,000 a year times but fewer than 4,000 are arrested.
• Approximately 1/3 of all drivers arrested or convicted of drunk driving are repeated offenders
• Almost 1/2 of all drivers who were killed in crashes and tested for drugs also had alcohol in them.
• 2012, 10.3 million people reported driving under the influence of illicit drug
• Drunk and drugged driving is 100% preventable…. It’s a choice!
This story was submitted by Starlin D. Phelps, Prevention Coordinator, Union County Commission on Alcohol & Drugs.