Like driving under the influence of alcohol, driving after using drugs or certain medications may cause impairments that increase motorists’ crash risk. As a result of drugged driving crashes, the drivers who used illicit substances, the passengers in their vehicles, or those with whom they share the road may suffer serious injuries or death. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, of the motorists involved in fatal auto accidents, 44% had some type of drug in their systems in 2016.
The Dangers of Drugged Driving
The use of marijuana, opioids, and other drugs have a range of effects on the body. Marijuana may cause effects such as difficulty perceiving time and distance, concentration issues, increased anxiety, and even hallucinations. Cocaine may mask the effects of fatigue, but may also impair people’s judgment, coordination, and vision. Opiates may cause mental confusion, drowsiness, and visual impairments, while amphetamines may affect people’s vision, make them more likely to take risks, and interfere with their concentration.
For drivers, the effects of drugs may impair their ability to safely operate and control their vehicles. While driving may seem almost second nature to some, it requires psychomotor skills, information processing, and cognitive skills – all of which may suffer as a result of drug use. Among other impairments, drug use may have effects such as the following on drivers:
- Poor speed control
- Slowed reactions to changes in traffic conditions or road hazards
- Difficulty reading signs
- Issues keeping the vehicle in the correct lane
Combining drugs and certain medications with other drugs or with alcohol may enhance these effects, causing greater impairments and increasing the risk of accidents that result in serious injuries or death.
OTC Medicines Cause Driving Impairments, Too
In addition to illegal drugs and certain prescribed medications, over-the-counter medicines may also affect people’s ability to safely operate motor vehicles. From pain relievers to cold and allergy medicines, OTC drugs may cause side effects such as dizziness, shakiness, drowsiness, nausea, or an irregular heartbeat. As is the case with the effects resulting from the use of illicit substances, these side effects may affect people’s judgment, hinder their coordination, or otherwise cause potentially hazardous impairments when behind the wheel. Consequently, drivers may have a greater risk of getting into serious motor vehicle collisions.