A lot of people use drugs, and it is not always obvious what is safe to use while driving. For example, many people don’t realize that driving under the influence of marijuana can impair your reaction times, slow your coordination and affect your judgment. On the other end of the spectrum, driving while on stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine could make you drive more aggressively, even recklessly.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol, illegal drugs and even some prescription drugs can affect your driving. When you drive while using any substance that impairs you, even a legal substance, you can be charged with DUI. You could also be charged with possessing a controlled substance.
Also according to NHTSA, driving while on illegal drugs appears to be on the rise. This is based on data from the agency’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, or FARS, which collects police reports from jurisdictions nationwide.
For example, in 2007, 25% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs, and another 8% tested positive for cannabinoids, which indicate past use of marijuana. Those percentages have risen every year. By 2016, 42% of fatally injured drivers were positive for drugs and 18% for cannabinoids.
How many drivers are impaired by drugs?
It could be a lot. Based on NHTSA’s 2013-14 National Roadside Survey, as many as 20% of weekend nighttime drivers tested positive for a potentially impairing drug. The National Roadside Survey is voluntary, so some people who were impaired may have chosen not to participate.
What are the most common drugs drivers are using?
NHTSA examined 33,375 drug recognition expert evaluations with confirmed toxicology results in 2017 and found that cannabis (marijuana and hashish) was the most common drug used by drivers (38%). Just behind cannabis was the use of more than one drug (37%). The remaining major drugs included:
- Stimulants (31%)
- Depressants (29%)
- Narcotic painkillers (28%)
- Dissociative anesthetics (2%)
- Hallucinogens (1%)
- Inhalants (1%)
If you’ve been arrested for drugged driving, call a lawyer
It can be hard to know what is safe, but it’s only too clear what is illegal. If you’re taking drugs that impair you, you shouldn’t drive.
If you have been charged with drugged driving, get a lawyer who won’t judge you but will instead help you manage the problem and limit the damage.