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Drugged Driving: A Cause for Concern

While it is drinking and driving that is typically discussed in the mainstream media, another issue, drugged driving, has become much more prevalent in recent years. Thanks to increased awareness, groups are slowly beginning to take action and the nation as a whole is taking a closer look at this often overlooked, yet incredibly dangerous, practice. Drugged driving, or the practice of operating a vehicle while under the influence of a mind altering substance, has become more widely practiced due in part to the surge in prescription pill abuse. Unlike drunk driving, which it is fairly easy to spot and readily testable with a breathalyzer, drugged driving is a much murkier area. Over the past few years, there has been increased awareness associated with drugged driving including television programs, groups advocating against this practice, and public awareness campaigns aimed at education, and ultimately, shifting away from the mentality that drugged driving is somehow less dangerous than its alcohol counterpart. Although alcohol affects people differently, the practice of drugged driving is a much more difficult area to traverse due to its seemingly endless possibility of drug interactions and effects. Tests are difficult to administer, as well as the possibility for setting a standard legal limit because of the different variations and legality of types of drugs. While prescription pills may be legal for some and any adult can purchase OTC medication, these drugs can still impact the body enough that driving may no longer be a safe option. Because of the myriad of drugs, their combinations, and a person’s individual tolerance, spotting drugged driving is far from an easy task. According to the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more than 10 million Americans reported driving while under the influence of illicit drugs at least once in the previous 12 months. As another problem particularly invasive in the youth community, the rate of drugged driving among individuals aged 18 to 25 rises to 13 percent. With prescription drug abuse on the rise, it is easy to see how this related problem is now coming to the foreground of conversation. Although national implementations have yet to be taken, grassroots efforts on raising awareness have increased over the past years. Drugged driving is about the individual, but it is also about each person who will be affected by their decision to operate a vehicle. Although change can be a slow process, the increased awareness and recognition of this problem is helping to create a base for potential drugged driving reform. (photo via)

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