While almost everyone is aware of the dangers of the drunk driving, too many aren’t as informed about the perils of “drugged driving”–or driving while under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs. Although the science behind drugged driving goes back 40 years, it’s only been in the last decade or so when the federal and state governments have made a concerted attempt to rein in this dangerous behavior and educate the public.
For example, a 1979 study found a “highly significant association between use of minor tranquilizers [anti-anxiety medications] and the risk of a serious road accident.” More recently, a 2008 study found a “detrimental” effect of marijuana use on driving. And, indeed, aside from alcohol, marijuana is the most commonly found drug in the system of a driver who has been in an accident.
Despite the clear dangers, the rate of drivers caught with dangerous levels of prescription drugs in their system has been on the rise. A 2014 University of Nebraska study found that “[i]n 1993, about 1 in 8 drivers were using multiple drugs concurrently. By 2010, it was closer to 1 in 5.”
According to a 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an astonishing 10 million people aged 12 or older admitted that they’d drove under the influence of illicit drugs during the previous year.
The rising trend has caught the attention of federal and state governments. In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) held a series of summits to investigate the troubling increase in traffic fatalities. One of the issues these summits investigated was the increased occurrence of drugged driving.
States have begun lowering the legal limit for drugs (of any kind) in a driver’s system, while increasing the penalties. Arizona is one of many states that has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to illicit drugs in a driver’s system–even if the driver is entitled to use the drug.
Drivers shouldn’t just be aware of the dangers of abusing drugs for their own safety; they should know that they share the road with drug abusers