Driving under the influence of prescription drugs

With the consequences of drunk driving constantly in the limelight the equally disastrous nature of driving under the influence of drugs (druged driving) has been dismissed or ignored by many.

Perpetrators of this offense often feel justified because they have a prescription, but the labels of such drugs as Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycodone all state not to operate vehicles or heavy machinery while taking the drug at the risk of dizziness, drowsiness and altered perception.

In Durham England the RAC Foundation’s 2003 research suggests that driving while using drugs has become more popular than driving under the influence of alcohol. The Durham police tested 23 drivers who had been involved in accidents and 50 percent were found to be under the influence of some type of drug (prescription narcotic, marijuana, cocaine or MDMA).

According to a 2006 study conducted by the RAC 20% of those surveyed drug drive everyday, 59% have driven after using cocaine, 59% after using marijuana and 44% have driven with passengers in the car while under the influence of drugs.

These statistics are frightening considering the influence these drugs have over a person’s ability to function and operate a vehicle. A recent personal injury case in Seattle involving a construction worker illustrates this point. The man was struck and dragged 20 feet by a driver who had been using drugs not prescribed to him. The driver had fallen asleep at the wheel as a side effect of the drug and ended up causing severe physical trauma to the victim who was no longer able to work at his chosen profession as a result of the injuries.

The abuse of illicit drugs has been steadily declining in recent years while the abuse of prescription drugs has been steadily increasing. The misuse and abuse of Oxycodone, Vicodin, Percocet, Xanax and Valium have become frequent particularly among teenagers. Most individuals do not consider these prescription narcotics as much of a risk as their illegal counterparts since you may legally obtain them and treat them as a sort of “safe high”. Combine this lack of respect for these serious drugs along with the young age and inexperience of the users and you have a recipe for disaster.

The truth of the matter is that using prescription drugs while driving poses the same risk as driving intoxicated. They reduce reaction time, alter speed perception, affect vision and cause drowsiness. So rather than assuming you can handle the prescription and are safe to drive- take the extra precaution and find an alternative mode of transportation. Grab a ride from a friend, take the bus or grab a taxi. And do your part to prevent the abuse of prescription drugs. Don’t sell or distribute them to friends or family and rather than leaving them in the cabinet for anyone to find, place them in a safe area and dispose of them properly at a pharmacy when you no longer need the medication.

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