Drugged driving has become too common; safety tips

A new report by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association reveals that for the first time, “drugged driving” has now surpassed drunk driving as a factor in fatal crashes. Statistics show drugs were present in 43 percent of drivers in crash fatalities. This new data validates the concern of motorists.

In a recent AAA survey, the majority of Ohio motorists say they now view people driving after using illegal drugs as a bigger threat to their personal safety than those driving after using alcohol. Three out of four motorists surveyed said the use of illegal drugs before driving was a “very serious threat” to their safety compared to 66 percent who said the same thing about people driving after drinking alcohol.

AAA supports the call for more training of law enforcement to recognize impairment roadside such as the DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) training and ARIDE (Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement).

According to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) traffic crash statistics, Ohio has seen a 25 percent increase in drugged driving crashes since 2012. Further, there were 3,574 drugged driving crashes in 2016, which accounted for about 33 percent of all impaired driving crashes.

AAA works year-round to educate the public on the dangers of impaired driving in an effort to reduce traffic-related crashes and injuries. AAA recently began raising awareness and understanding among the public and traffic safety stakeholders about key substance-impaired driving issues.

When we hear the term “drugged- driver” many automatically think of impairment caused by illegal drugs. But illegal drugs aren’t the only substances that can impair drivers. In fact, many people use prescription or over-the-counter medications that can impair their driving.

Prescription and over-the-counter medications come with warnings about possible side effects, such as drowsiness or risks related to driving, yet many people ignore them, because they’ve never had a problem. In addition, side effects for an individual drug can change when combined with other medications, especially new prescriptions.

AAA offers a free, confidential online tool that can help identify drugs that should not be taken by anyone who plans to drive. Developed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Roadwise Rx is a free online tool designed to allow you to record your prescription and over-the-counter medications in one central location, and to receive personalized feedback about how drug side effects and interactions between medications may impact your ability to drive safely. AAA encourages motorists to use this free on-line tool to help prevent the growing problem of impaired driving.

To strengthen efforts to reduced drugged driving related traffic crashes and fatalities, AAA is offering these important safety tips:

• Discuss the risks of drugged driving with family and friends in advance.

• If you find yourself substance-impaired and unable to drive, call a cab or someone to pick you up.

• Do not hesitate to take the keys from friends or family members who may be impaired.

• Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who is impaired by a substance.

• If you encounter an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and ask a passenger to call 911 (or pull over to a safe location to make the call yourself).

• Visit PreventDUI.AAA.com for impaired driving facts, transportation alternatives and expert advice. AAA encourages visitors to Take the Pledge to drive drug and alcohol-free.

Every month in Life, Cindy Antrican, Dayton-based public affairs manager for AAA Allied Group, Inc., provides traffic safety tips and information for motorists. Email: CAntrican@aaa-alliedgroup.com.

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