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Monday, October 18, 2010

Drugged Driving Can Also Lead to Danger Zones

There is overwhelming evidence that Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, Speeding, Talking & Texting on a Cellular Device are extremely hazardous driving behaviors that can cause many danger zones in our roads, streets, and highways. You hear it on the newscasts, read it in the paper, see it online, in public service announcements and billboards. However, there is another extremely dangerous one that might be overlooked at times by society, and that would be "Drugged Driving".

As with the other dangerous driving behaviors, "Drugged Driving" is also very prevalent; even though sometimes it takes a "back seat" by the public to other dangerous driving acts. A nationally representative survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that in 2007, 16 percent of weekend nighttime drivers (roughly 1 in 6) tested positive for licit or illicit drugs. Moreover, approximately 1 in ten high school seniors responding to the 2008 Monitoring The Future Study reported driving after smoking marijuana within two weeks prior to the study interview. This is just a microcosm of the data that highlights the scope of the issue and reinforce the importance of reducing all Drug use. So why is drugged driving so dangerous? Remember that drugs acting on the brain can alter perception, cognition, attention, balance, coordination, reaction time, and other faculties required for safe driving. The effects of specific drugs of abuse differ depending on their mechanisms of action, the amount consumed, the history of the user, and other factors.

The following are some proven facts on what you should know to aid you in making the decision to "say no" to drugged driving. The most commonly used illicit drug is Marijuana. THC the chemical in marijuana affects areas of the brain that control the body's movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment, as well as sensations. Evidence from both real and simulated driving studies indicates that marijuana can negatively affect a driver’s attentiveness, perception of time and speed, and ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences.

Illicit stimulants (e.g. cocaine, methamphetamine) cause increased heart rate and blood pressure, loss of coordination, restlessness, panic & paranoia, and severe aggression. These drugs have been shown to cause drivers to drive at high speeds, apply brakes abruptly when there is no apparent reason to do so (emergency stopping for no valid reason), impairs driver coordination, and other severe risk factors which increase the chances of motor vehicle crashes to occur.

What about licit or "legal" drugs? Wouldn't it be alright to drive under their influence? The answer is no. The prescription here is to steer the other way when it comes to driving when they are taken; in other words "don't do it". Prescription drugs act on systems in the brain that could impair driving ability. In fact, many prescription drugs come with warnings against the operation of machinery— including motor vehicles—for a specified period of time after use. When abuse of prescription drugs occurs through use without medical supervision, impaired driving and other harmful reactions can also result.

The remedy to reduce the danger zones in our streets, roads, and highways is to operate motor vehicles safely by avoiding drugged driving and other risk-taking driving behaviors. Through safe driving collaborative efforts by the primary stakeholders in reducing crashes, the driving population, we can merge on to the "danger-free" zone.

Read more about the Danger of Driving on Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs.

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