Drugs and Auto Driving Are an Increasing Danger
Recently the National Center for Injury and Prevention Control proclaimed that December will be “National Drugged Driving Month” because of the increase of motor vehicle accidents involving drug use.
According to a recent survey by the National Highway and Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 10 million drivers admitted to driving under the influence of drugs last year. The highest rate is among young adults aged 18-25 years. As a consequence, drugs account for 19% of driver fatalities nationwide.
Drugs have a similar effect on the brain as alcohol. Depending on the drug, it can impair ones motor skills, reaction time and judgment. It’s a growing health concern today in America due to the increase of both illegal and prescription drug use.
Although drugged driving is as serious as alcohol-impaired driving, the drug driving laws have lagged behind most alcohol legislation. More research is needed to determine which drugs and certain levels cause impairment among the general population. As with alcohol, drugs affect people differently and many cases, drugs and alcohol are mixed.
In a recent trial here in Orange County, a young man , Jeffrey Woods, 22, was convicted of manslaughter for being the under the influence of two prescription drugs; Xanax and Vicodin, when he hit and killed a young boy on his bicycle. In addition, he was found guilty of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while being intoxicated. Woods faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison.
The accident occurred on August 29, 2008 when a 14 year old boy, Danny Oates was riding his bike to his middle school to pick up his class schedule. While he was riding down Indianapolis Avenue in Huntington Beach, Woods swerved his truck across all traffic lanes at 60 mph and hit Oates. The impact threw the boy over 100 feet. Although emergency crews were on the scene immediately, he died soon after he went to the emergency room from major trauma. There were no skid marks at the scene which is consistent with testimony that he did not even see the boy.
The combination of Xanax and Vicodin can produce psychomotor impairment and Woods should obviously not have been driving that day. In addition to his drug use he was texting before the crash—a lethal combination.
Over half of Americans use prescription drugs on a regular basis. This number is astounding when you think that even more take over-the-counter drugs as well. Last year over 224,000 died from medical error involving drug use.
When taking a prescription or OTC drug, know the facts:
- Speak with your doctor or pharmacist about any questions you may have
- Read the labels carefully
- Use good medical websites such as www.rxlist.com for a full list of side effects, drug interactions with other medicines and other precautions.
- Never mix prescription drugs with alcohol; it will either intensive the effect or can counteract the effect altogether.
Safe driving means reporting those you love that are jeopardizing us on the road. Keep drugs off our streets, literally.
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