Study: Most Americans don't understand drugged driving

January 6, 2015 05:38 PM
Safe driving receives a lot of attention, regardless of whether you're a brand new motorists or an experienced pro. With laws changing all the time and modern technology adding fresh distractions, it takes a lot for drivers to stay focused on the road. However, responsible driving becomes practically impossible when outside factors, such as drugs or alcohol, are added to the equation. Although most people are aware of the rules and dangers associated with driving while intoxicated, fewer motorists know about drugged driving. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently released a study detailing how Americans feel about driving under the influence of drugs. Laws vary by state According to the survey, almost half of U.S. drivers are concerned about drugged driving, but few are aware of the laws currently in place. That's hardly a surprise, as many of the regulations vary by state and are not as well-publicized as drinking laws. With almost 10 million people admitting to drugged driving in 2013, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it's essential to learn more about the dangers and rules related to this act. "While all states prohibit driving under the influence of drugs, there's significant variation in the minimum acceptable levels of marijuana or its traces in a driver's system," said Peter Kissinger, president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "Sixteen states forbid any presence of prohibited drugs, while five others have specific limits for marijuana. With a lack of uniformity, it's no surprise we found that more than half of American drivers are unaware of the laws that exist in their state." They may not know the existing rules, but Americans still support more regulations. The survey noted that 85 percent of people agree with marijuana-impairment laws. Understanding the ramifications Confusion about the laws is just the beginning. Many drivers are also unaware of the impact drugs can have on driving. Even legal drugs, such as marijuana or prescription pills, can seriously affect a person's mindset, but 1 in 6 U.S. drivers believe it's acceptable to drive just one hour after using marijuana. "Federal government research suggests that marijuana can impair driving performance for up to 3 hours," said Kissinger. "Decreased car handling performance, increased reaction times and sleepiness have all been documented driver impairments that result from marijuana use." According to U.S. News & World Report, there isn't enough research to enact firm laws regarding driving after using marijuana. While they know it has some effect on motorists, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet to come across a specific threshold - such as the .08 blood alcohol limit - that pinpoints serious danger. Still, all motorists should be aware of the impact any type of drugs or medication can have on coordination, alertness, reaction time and perception. Drivers need to be strong in each of these areas, and having drugs that dull the senses can lead to danger. Be smart on the roads The best thing drivers can do is use their brains when they get behind the wheel. Anyone using prescription medication should discuss side effects with a physician before driving. It's also a good idea to wait to drive until you are familiar with your body's response to the treatment. Of course, no one should understate the importance of having a car that's safe to drive. Regular auto tune ups and vehicle maintenance can ensure that a car is ready for anything on the roads. That way, even if you encounter a dangerous, drugged driver, all aspects of your vehicle are functioning at a high level.
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