An annual public opinion survey of over 5,000 American drivers aged 21 or older, conducted recently by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), indicated that the number of drunk driving incidents came down in 2017 compared to 2016.
In 2016, the survey had reported the highest rates of drunk driving. At the same time, the number of fatalities due to drunken driving were also equally high. Despite the decline in the rate of drunk driving, it continues to be major problem among youngsters in the United States. Around 30 percent of drivers involved in drunk driving accidents were in the age group 21 to 24 years in 2015. With a 31 percent of alcohol-related road deaths, the U.S. remains one of the worst offenders.
Besides drunk driving, another trend on the rise is drugged driving. It is equally dangerous and constitutes a major public health hazard. As per 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 20.7 million people aged 16 and above were involved in drunk driving in the previous year. In addition, around 11.8 million people had driven after consuming illicit drugs.
Disclosing why American drivers chose to drive being clearly above the legal limits, Dr. Ward Vanlaar, co-author of the survey and chief operating officer of TIRF in Canada said, “ Our data consistently revealed the number one answer is that they thought they were ‘OK to drive.’” Some of the other reasons provided by people for driving despite the level of their blood alcohol being clearly past the 0.08 percent limit are as follows.
- Tend to consider short distances as commutable even when drunk: It is a grave misconception that one can drive short distances drunk or drugged. Long or short, when one is drunk or knows has more alcohol than permitted, it is best to hand over the keys of the car to someone who is sober.
- Absence of any alternative: In case someone is drugged or drunk, the best way to reach home safe is to hire a cab. If nothing is available, one could just ask someone to set aside a couch or a bed for him or her to sleep off his or her drunkenness.
- Driven by a false sense of bravado: When a person is drugged or drunk, it becomes a mammoth task for him or her to handle the steering wheel and the brakes with alacrity. While teens and even adults could under a false sense of bravado undertake to drive a car despite being drunken, it is simply not advisable.
- Lack of awareness of the dangers: In spite of the massive public awareness campaigns, people are still not aware of the dangers of drunk driving. Teens driven by the spirit of rebellion seem to care less about the dangers associated with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Increasingly, they are resorting to mixing drugs and alcohol for experiencing the extreme levels of high.
Road to sobriety
While alcohol is primarily responsible for a majority of road accidents, marijuana is not far behind in the race. As weed contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical responsible for causing a distorted sense of reality, it becomes difficult for the driver to judge distances or read road signs after consuming marijuana. Depending on whether the drug consumed is a stimulant or a depressant, one witnesses differences in the interaction of the brain chemicals.
While depressants like alcohol and marijuana cause a slowdown in reaction time, stimulants like cocaine are responsible for leading the driver to engage in reckless acts (e.g., speeding, violence, etc.). While every drug is dangerous, the risks multiply multiple times on the consumption of a combination of substances.
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