When most people discuss driving under the influence, they focus on drunk drivers. Alcohol poses a significant problem on the road, of course, but drugged driving also places drivers, passengers, and passersby at risk. The use of illicit drugs or the misuse of prescription drugs can seriously impair a driver’s judgment, coordination, and reaction time. Drugged driving endangers countless people every day. In fact, according to the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey of alcohol and drug use by drivers, over one in five drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could impair driving skills (source). To learn more about the shocking reality of this devastating problem, please scroll down.
The Dangers of Drugged Driving
Drugs influence the function of the brain in drastically different ways. Marijuana, for example, tends to hinder reaction time, decrease coordination, and impair the user’s judgement of time and distance. Cocaine and methamphetamines, on the other hand, may provoke aggression and recklessness on the road. Other drugs, like benzodiazepines (sedatives), can spark dizziness or cause the driver to fall asleep behind the wheel. In addition, many substance abusers mix drugs with alcohol, causing further impairment. No matter what the drug’s effects, if the driver loses control of his or her faculties through a decline in perception, good judgment, alertness, recognition, or any other important capability, he or she should not be driving.
Because even a small amount of a drug can have significant ramifications, some states enforce zero-tolerance policies. If any amount of a drug is found in the person’s blood or urine, they can face a DUI charge. Other states are defining acceptable blood levels of drug use, much like the tolerated blood alcohol levels currently used by law enforcement.
The Reality of the Problem
Compared to driving under the influence of alcohol, drugged driving is rarely discussed or researched in depth. However, with the legalization of marijuana in several states and the increasing epidemic of prescription drug abuse, everyone should be aware of and concerned about this dangerous issue.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one in three fatally injured drivers tested positive for medications or drugs. This includes prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and illegal drugs (source). Plus, just last month, a poll by AAA found that tri-state motorists now view drugged drivers as a greater threat to their safety than drunk drivers (source). Nearly three-quarters of the motorists (74%) said they felt driving under the influence of illegal drugs posed “a very serious threat” to their personal safety (compared to 71% who said the same of drunk driving). Not only does drugged driving scare drivers and cause accidents, it also costs people their lives.
Not yet convinced of the dangers of drugged driving? Check out these statistics:
- In 2014, approximately 10 million people over the age of 12 reported having driven under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year (source).
- More than 31 thousand people admitted to driving after drug or alcohol use in 2013, and the highest rate was amongst 18- to 25-year-olds (source).
- The percentage of drivers involved in fatal car crashes under the influence of marijuana jumped from 2% to 12.2% between 1999 and 2010. In addition, the number of nighttime weekend drivers with THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) detected in their system increased by 48% from 2007 to 2014. (source).
- About 17 to 27% of people who have driven drunk have also used drugs while behind the wheel (source).
Although all 50 states have enacted legislation to specifically target drivers under the influence of drugs, due to a lack of law enforcement training and public education (amongst other issues), the problem persists. And unlike the breath testing that occurs on the roadside for alcohol, there is currently no way to test for levels of intoxication for drugs on the roadside. Communities must work together to make it clear that drugged driving is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Unfortunately, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most police officers have not been trained to look for substances other than alcohol used by the driver. To combat the issue of drugged driving, more police personnel must receive training to test for marijuana use in drivers. In addition, communities need to make drugged driving a higher priority.
In the Workplace
As about 70% of the estimated 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed, drugged driving presents an issue for employers as well. Many jobs require frequent road trips, whether for meetings with clients, job site visits, or the transportation of products. To ensure that substance abuse doesn’t influence their business’s safety, efficiency, or productivity, many companies pair up with a reputable screening provider to test current employees and potential hires for drugs and alcohol. This not only provides peace of mind and allows the employer to confidently operate their business, it also protects employees, other drivers, and the general public.
If you’re looking to implement a drug-free workplace program through drug and alcohol testing, contact Tomo Drug Testing. Based in Springfield, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Missouri, and Indianapolis, Indiana, we offer customized solutions to make drug testing simple, and our nationwide network of clinics and providers allows Tomo Drug Testing to be available anytime, anywhere. For a free needs analysis, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help!