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Taking drugs will impair driving ability. Driving whilst under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous and can affect driving in numerous ways.
The police are issues with more sophisticated equipment that enables them to test instantly whether a driver is under the influence of drugs, by testing saliva or sweat. So why take the chance when it’s straightforward to identify a drug driver?
Think of the things you wouldn’t do if using a piece of dangerous machinery – like a chain saw for instance. You wouldn’t spend an hour or so drinking in the pub then nip home to cut down a tree, you wouldn’t want to be talking on a mobile phone (even hands free) whilst doing it, and you’d probably want a good night’s rest before even attempting such a potentially dangerous task.
Alcohol, mobile phones and fatigue are examples of how we can impair our ability to concentrate fully and to perform at our best - however, many drivers do take these risks whilst driving. The trouble is with these examples is that at the time it doesn’t seem like we’re affected of performing badly, but to an onlooker the effect is very clear – just like when we’re driving under an impairment.
Taking drugs and driving will impair your ability to perform the way you should. Drugs will impair your ability to concentrate, to react in an emergency, to perceive accurately what’s going on around you and to judge properly the best course of action to avoid disaster.
Drug drivers can suffer from blurred vision, erratic and aggressive behaviour, 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.
If you are caught driving under the influence of drugs you could face a fine of up to £5,000, driving ban or imprisonment. Worse still, you could cause a serious crash, injuring yourself, your passengers or other road users.
Some people think that cannabis is a 'safer substitute' to drinking, but it can cause concentration to wander, which can affect reaction times. It can also cause paranoia, drowsiness, distorted perception and a sense of disorientation - all of which could cause you to lose control at the wheel.
Cannabis is the most commonly traced drug in drivers, with over 800,000 drivers travelling under the influence of it every year in the UK. Even though the effects fade after a matter of hours, it can be detected in the blood for up to four weeks. In theory, this can compromise the driver if they're tested positive, even if their driving wasn't adversely affected at the time.
In a study by the Transport Research Laboratory, people who drove a car at 66 miles per hour had a stopping distance of around 270ft, but after smoking a joint this increased on average by 15% to 310ft. In a slalom test, those who had just smoked a joint knocked over 30% more cones.
Some experts claim that smoking a cannabis joint has roughly a similar level of impairment on driving ability as drinking four pints of beer. Also, reports show that in the majority of fatal crashes where cannabis has been detected in a driver's body, alcohol has also been detected. Alcohol alone or in combination with cannabis increases impairment, accident rate and accident responsibility (the same can be applied to other drugs, too).
This is a psycho-stimulant that can lead to misjudging driving speed and stopping distances. It can also cause a distorted sense of light and sound and a feeling of overconfidence, which can lead to aggressive and erratic driving. While it can make you feel alert at first, the effects wear off quickly, leading to an increased danger of falling asleep at the wheel.
A stimulant drug with hallucinogenic properties, ecstasy can distort your sense of vision and heighten sense of sound. Your concentration can be affected, while you may become over-confident and more likely to take dangerous risks.
Ketamine, LSD and magic mushrooms
Drugs such as these with hallucinogenic properties can strongly influence the senses, so drivers may react to objects or sounds that aren't there, and place themselves and other road users in danger. Coordination skills are likely to be greatly affected, and you may experience anxiety, blurred vision and a sense of detachment from reality - all of which could be deadly on the road.
While amphetamines might give you a sense of heightened alertness and confidence, they can be highly dangerous for drivers as they distort your perceptions and can make you feel anxious, prone to panic attacks and lose coordination.
Legal Drugs /Medications
It is not just illegal drugs that will impair driving ability, prescription or over the counter medicines should always be taken properly. Advice about this is provided on the packaging and in the patient information leaflet supplied and packed in with the medicine. Typically the message ‘May affect driving, do not use if affected’ will appear, placing the responsibility solely on the driver to make a judgement call – get this wrong, or take a chance it won’t be a problem and the driver could face the same penalties as an illicit drug taking driver. If this is you or someone you know, consult your Doctor, healthcare professional or pharmacist for advice.
Drug Driving is, in the eyes of the law, equivalent to drink driving. Up to a quarter of those killed in crashes in the UK have illegal or prescribed drugs in their bloodstream. It’s that serious.
If you think drug taking has little, or even a positive, impact on your driving you could be tragically mistaken. It is impossible to predict how a drug will affect your driving, but every time you take drugs and drive you are putting yourself into an unpredictable and dangerous position. Don’t let drugs take the driving seat.
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