Increase Your Awareness About Drugs and Driving

Everyone knows about drunk driving -- you see ads, campaigns, and PSA's everywhere about the evils of driving drunk. But what about drugs and their effect on drivers? For some reason, it's incredibly rare to near unheard-of to see anything about drugged driving. It's time to change that.

The Facts.

The cold, hard facts are this: Driving while under the influence can be deadly, no matter what that influence is. Drugs are just as apt to impair or cloud your judgement as alcohol is, yet you rarely hear anything about it. Because of this, a lot of people seem to think it's okay to drive while you're high -- 'Oh, it's just a little pot, I'll be fine!' seems to be a common state of mind.

In a 2014 survey, nearly 10 million people admitted to driving while under the influence of illicit drugs. 10 million! Stats from 2009 and 2010 show that around 18% of people killed in crashes had at least one drug in their systems, while 11% of drivers involved in fatal crashes also showed illicit drug use.

Sadly, while we have tests in place to check for alcohol use while driving, it's not as easy to test for drugs during traffic stops. We simply don't have the technology available yet, so we really don't have any way of knowing just how low those reported numbers are. People also tend to mix alcohol with drugs and driving, so if they're getting pulled over for being drunk, no one's testing for drugs also. There's no telling how bad the danger really is.

Why it's a problem.

Whether they're illegal or prescription, drugs alter your perceptions and sense of reality. For instance:

    Marijuana and Heroin - act like downers, slowing down your reaction times, reduce your coordination and concentration, and alter your perception of distances and speeds.
    Methamphetamines - meth, cocaine, ecstasy, and other similar drugs in this family all act as uppers, which can make you more aggressive and rash, making you more prone to take risks you wouldn't normally take. They also affect your ability to sleep, which can lead to excessive tiredness -- also a bad driving hazard.
    Hallucinogens - affect perception of time, distances and speed much like cannabis, as well as tricking the senses into seeing, hearing, and feeling things that aren't there.
    Prescription drugs - the effects of these drugs can vary depending on what they are, but they often can affect your perceptions and reduce your reactions, like the illicit drugs already listed. Any one of these impairments by themselves can make driving a potentially fatal endeavor -- combine more than one at a time and/or mix them with alcohol, and you're creating a lethal cocktail.

Be safe.

An obvious tip would be to never drive under the influence -- this almost goes without saying. However, in some cases -- such as a new prescription drug that you might not know all of the side effects of -- it's not always so simple to practice.

    For prescription drugs: Make sure you ask your doctor or pharmacist about all possible interactions and side effects. You can also do an internet search to see what might be reported about the drug your doctor may not tell you. In some cases, some drugs may not impair your senses by themselves, but in a combination they just might.
    Have a designated driver: Arrange a safe mode of transportation to and from situations or parties where there may be drugs and alcohol. Also, consider using a 'key bowl' in these situations to keep from driving while impaired.
    Be the designated driver for your friends: taking turns being the DD when your group goes out to party is a great way to keep everyone safe while making sure things remain fair.
    Offer safe rides for a small fee: If you're not the type to party yourself but you still want to make sure your friends are safe, you might consider offering them a 'safe ride' service. Even if it's something like gas money or food, the cost they would pay you would end up being much less than a cab -- or a fatal crash.
    When in doubt, don't: If you take prescription drugs and they leave you any doubts about your ability to drive safely at all, find another method of transportation.
    Talk it out: Make sure you talk to your friends and family about any concerns you might have. Talking to them about the dangers of drugged driving can help increase their awareness on a subject they may not have known much about, and if done properly can show that you care about their well-being and safety.

Remember -- it doesn't matter what the influence is. Driving under the influence of any substance is illegal, and oftentimes carries fatal consequences. Don't let your friends and loved ones become just another statistic -- help spread the awareness today.

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