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The frequency of drugged driving

It is illegal and very unsafe for drivers to get behind the wheel while under the influence of mind-altering drugs. Drivers in South Carolina might not understand the extent to which drugged driving is unsafe, but even small amounts of some substances can impair a driver's coordination, reaction time, perception, judgment and attention. This impairment has the potential to cause car accidents of varying severity.

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, 18 percent of drivers who died in 2009 car accidents tested positive for at least one over-the-counter, prescription or illicit drug. This was a 5 percent increase over data recorded from 2005. In 2007, a NHTSA National Roadside Survey showed that more than 11 percent of evening weekend drivers tested positive for illicit drugs, while more than 5 percent tested positive for over-the-counter and prescription medications combined.

The primary substance detected in impaired drivers, car accident victims and fatally injured drivers is THC, the active agent in marijuana. According to several simulated and real driving studies, marijuana negatively affects the perception of speed and time and the attentiveness of drivers. It can also affect a driver's ability to draw from past driving experience. Other substances that contribute to drugged driving include amphetamines, cocaine, opiates and benzodiazepines.

The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 3.8 percent of adolescent and adult drivers reported driving while under the influence of illicit drugs within the previous year. Data from the survey also indicates that drivers aged 18 to 25 and men are the most likely to drive after using drugs. A drugged driver who causes a car accident could cause serious injuries to other drivers, passengers, cyclists or pedestrians. The injured victims or their families might be able to be compensated for their losses through the filing of a persoal injury lawsuit.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse , "DrugFacts: Drugged Driving", December 30, 2014

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