Steer Clear Of These 5 Dangerous Driving Impairments
While many of us think of parallel parking mastery as the epitome of good driving, there are a number of everyday habits that can make us all better drivers. This includes understanding and avoiding the use of drugs before hitting the road - even many of those prescriptions from your doctor. And while you may think that drugged driving doesn’t affect you, by sharing the roads with other drivers, you are put at risk. After all, 10 million people reported driving under the influence of drugs in 2013. Being ready to spot the signs of a vehicle whose driver may be under the influence can help you steer clear of danger and keep you and your family safe.
The most common dangerous driving situation is operating a vehicle while distracted. It includes texting, scrolling through your music library, those kids screaming and fighting in the backseat, and overall stress that distracts your attention. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 3,477 people killed as well as an estimated 391,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015 alone. The best way to combat distracted driving is to pull safely to the side of the road when a situation requires your attention instead of trying to do both.
Driving While Tired
Sleep-related crashes and terrifying near-misses are also quite common. The National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America poll showed that 60% of adult drivers have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy in the past year. That’s 168 million people. Additionally, more than one-third (103 million people), have actually fallen asleep while behind the wheel. That’s a lot of drowsy driving - and while roadside tests like breathalyzers can detect alcohol levels, there is no test to determine a driver’s drowsiness. If you find yourself nodding off behind the wheel, pull over or call someone to pick you up. It isn’t worth your life.
Marijuana and Driving
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system and while studies have shown that driving under the influence of marijuana is not as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol, its effects are still concerning. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), which is a part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, found that those moderately impaired by marijuana tend to compensate for their impairment by “driving more slowly, passing less, and leaving more space between themselves and cars in front of them,” but are delayed when making quick decisions behind the wheel.
Statistics on marijuana use and traffic accidents are still unclear and will remain so until a comprehensive roadside test is developed to determine the actual THC levels of drivers. The tests available now show whether a subject has imbibed the drug within the previous weeks, not whether the driver is under the influence at the time. Until then, follow the NCBI’s advice and don’t drive under the influence while avoiding any vehicles on the road that are noticeably swerving or driving erratically.
Stimulants and Driving
The National Institute of Health has found that while 45.1% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for alcohol, 25.9% tested positive for drugs - the most common of these being stimulants which accounted for 7.2% of those tested. Stimulants include cocaine, amphetamines, caffeine pills, ritalin, and meth and their effects on driving include lane weaving and drifting, speeding, erratic driving, and increased risk-taking. Use can also cause overly-aggressive driving and a concentrated group of users seem to be over-worked truck drivers. Because of this, steer clear of any aggressive or reckless semis while navigating highways and stay alert for these behaviors off the freeway as well.
Sedatives and Driving
Sedatives cause drowsiness, obviously, but how many people ignore those warnings on prescription bottles about avoiding heavy machinery? Too many, says the Food and Drug Administration. According to the FDA, “research suggests that benzodiazepines increase crash risk as much as 50%.” If you’re taking any prescriptions including opioids, antihistamines, pain meds, anti-anxiety medications, or muscle relaxers, it’s best to refrain from driving as these substances can slow your reactions or cause you to fall asleep behind the wheel.
Of course, even if you’d never dose and drive, you’re still at risk when you share the road with those who do. Be aware of your surroundings and the behavior of vehicles around you. By avoiding reckless or suspicious drivers you can save your life - and by reporting any blatantly unsafe driving, you might save the lives of others.