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The number of automobile accidents and fatalities caused by drugged driving is on the rise. Most everyone is familiar with the seriousness of drunk driving, but few people are aware that drugged driving is causing an alarming number of accidents every year. Using any mind altering substance, from illegal drugs to prescription medications, and driving creates a hazard for the driver, his or her passengers, and all others who share the road.

How often does drugged driving cause accidents?

Some studies suggest that drugged driving may actually be more prevalent than drunk driving. According to the website stopdruggeddriving.org, “drugs were present more than 7 times as frequently as alcohol among weekend nighttime drivers in the U.S., with 16% testing positive for drugs, compared to 2% testing at or above the legal limit for alcohol.” They also state that as many as 20% of the crashes in the U.S. are caused by drugged driving. Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that 1 in 3 fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs.

These statistics are frightening and yet they don’t reveal the entirety of the problem. According to the NIDA, “It is hard to measure the exact contribution of drug intoxication to driving accidents, because blood tests for drugs other than alcohol are inconsistently performed, and many drivers who cause accidents are found to have both drugs and alcohol in their system, making it hard to determine which substance had the greater effect.” Drugged driving may go undetected as it is not as commonly nor as easily tested for as alcohol.

What types of drugs are causing accidents?

The drug most frequently found in the blood of impaired drivers is THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Numerous studies on driving while impaired have found that marijuana negatively affects a driver’s reactions and perceptions of time and speed. The other most commonly used drugs that impair driving function are opiates, amphetamines, benzodiazepines (such as triazolam, lorazepam, and Klonopin/clonazepam), cocaine, and opioid pain relievers. Both illegal and prescription drugs can cause impairment and lead to dangerous driving.

Drugged driving is incredibly dangerous and the number of people driving while impaired is on the rise. Driving after marijuana use now surpasses drunk driving. “Among college students, nearly 1 in 3 drove after marijuana use and nearly 1 in 2 rode with a driver who had been using marijuana.” There must be an increased awareness of the dangers of not only drunk driving, but drugged driving. Driving while impaired by any substance is reckless, risky, and dangerous for all those who share the roads.

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