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The Dangers of Drugged Driving

Thursday, September 14, 2017By Nina Shapirshteyn

When we think about “impaired driving,” alcohol is often the first substance that comes to mind, however, drugged driving has surpassed drunk driving as the dominant factor in fatal car crashes across the U.S. It’s not just the illicit and illegal drugs that are a problem. Certain prescription and over-the-counter meds can lead to impaired driving scenarios when taken behind the wheel. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 43 percent of fatally injured drivers with a known test result tested positively for drugs. It’s important to understand that testing for drugs is much more complicated than simply testing for alcohol. At this time, there are 430 specific drugs or metabolites in the National Highway Safety Fatality Database.

Driving While Taking Over-The-Counter Drugs

Nobody wants to think that the over-the-counter med they’re taking is really considered a “drug,” but it is. It’s critical to read every label on every drug you’re taking, even if it’s a drug you’ve taken before and you’re very familiar with. If it can cause drowsiness, it can impair your driving ability. Just because a medication is available over-the-counter and without a prescription, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to take behind the wheel.

Prescription Drugs Behind The Wheel

Many common prescription drugs are dangerous behind the wheel. Opioid painkillers, stimulants and a variety of other prescription drugs should never be mixed with driving. Certain prescription drugs can have a similar impact on your awareness, alertness and safety as alcohol. If you’re not sure about a prescription drug’s safety behind the wheel, read the label and talk to your pharmacist. If it causes drowsiness or it says not to operate heavy machinery, you shouldn’t be driving while taking it. Listed below are just a few prescription drugs that shouldn’t be taken while driving.

Dangerous Prescription Drugs Behind The Wheel

  • Codeine
  • OxyContin
  • Ambien
  • Xanax
  • Tramadol
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin
  • Ritalin
  • Adderall

Driving Under The Influence of Illegal Drugs

Finally, driving under the influence of any illegal drugs puts your life and the lives of others at risk for injury causing or potentially fatal crashes. Illicit drugs like marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin are all dangerous behind the wheel. Many of these substances can impact your safety behind the wheel for hours after you take them.

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