driving on drugs: stats and facts

Any drugs, from legal prescription meds and over-the-counter (OTC) cold and allergy medications to illicit ones like cocaine, may quickly affect reasoning and motor skills. We'll explain.

driving on OTC and prescription drugs

If you've ever taken cold medicine, you know that it can induce sleepiness. Although it's difficult to gauge the level of drowsiness prior to a crash (there's no drowsiness breathalyzer), the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that 21 percent of fatal automobile crashes involve a drowsy driver. That's an annual average of about 6,400 fatal crashes related to driver fatigue. And since some prescription and OTC drugs have drowsiness, dizziness, or blurred vision as a side effect, it's best to err on the side of caution. Ask your doctor about any potential side effects to see if a particular medicine could impair driving.

who’s driving on drugs?

The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 10 million people aged 12 or older (or 3.9 percent of adolescents and adults) reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs during the previous year. (And who knows how many others drove while impaired on a legal substance?) Of those surveyed, young drivers aged 18 to 25 had the highest reported incidents of drugged driving.

drugged driving and car accidents

Research on drugged driving is limited compared to its counterpart, drunk driving. This is likely because it's difficult to measure the correlation between drugs (both legal and illegal) and car accidents. Unlike alcohol, drugs can't be easily detected with a simple breath test, and even in fatal car accidents, drug test results are unavailable for a majority of drivers.

drugged driving and car insurance

Because of the dangers, it makes sense that all states have strict penalties for those convicted of driving while impaired by a drug. And because drugged driving affects any driver's ability to drive safely, car insurers take note of any prior drugged driving convictions. And in most cases, more risk translates to higher car insurance rates.

Drugged driving laws
The laws surrounding driving on drugs are as varied as they are complicated. Learn all about them here.

The cost of a DUI
Find out how much a DUI conviction could cost. (Hint: it's a pretty penny.)

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