Most people now recognise that drinking and driving is socially unacceptable and that the consequences can be fatal but something that is equally important is the effects of drugs on driving.
It is an offence to drive whilst unfit through drugs. Many people think that if they drive under the influence of drugs a vehicle search and a potential charge of possession is all they have to be worried about. Taking drugs will impair driving skills. Driving whilst under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous and can affect driving in numerous ways.
Drug drivers can suffer from slower reaction times, erratic and aggressive behaviour, an inability to concentrate properly, nausea, hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, tremors (or ‘the shakes’) dizziness and fatigue. In such a condition, it is a bad idea to be behind the wheel of a car, for the driver and their passengers.During the phase whilst the effects of drugs are wearing off, the taker may feel fatigued, which will affect their concentration whilst driving.
There is a worrying trend in the growth of numbers of drivers killed on the road with traces of illegal drugs in their bodies – 18% of all fatalities in a recent study. This trend is causing concern. Four times as many drivers with traces of illegal drugs in their bodies died compared to a similar survey undertaken in the 1980’s. In ten years, illegal drug taking by drivers subsequently involved in road traffic accidents has increased six fold. Recreational drugs are difficult to test for but extensive trials are ongoing to produce reliable roadside drug tests.
Some drugs prescribed by doctors or purchased from pharmacists do not affect driving safety at all. Others are certainly not safe to take before driving. Some have a more marked affect on the ability to drive well. On the other hand, many conditions and illnesses cause impairment to driving unless they are treated. Fortunately there are many medicines that can be taken that are just as effective as others but do not have an adverse effect on driving. Doctors and pharmacists should be able to prescribe or advise on safer options.