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Drugs Other Than Alcohol

A drug is any chemical substance that when ingested or otherwise introduced to the body, effectively change how your body and mind work. Alcohol is the most commonly found drug among impaired drivers, but other impairing drugs include prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, cannabis and illegal street drugs.

Prescription Drugs

  • A doctor’s prescription to use these drugs includes directions for use. Always follow the label directions including those that say “Do Not Operate Heavy Equipment” while on the drug. Be sure to follow directions exactly, not only to accomplish the drug’s purpose, but also to limit dangerous and undesirable side effects.
  • Prescription drugs can be helpful when used as prescribed. But they also can hinder your driving ability by reducing your level of alertness or ability to perform complex tasks. Do not use prescription drugs that are prescribed for other people.

Over the Counter/Non-Prescription Drugs

  • Available without a prescription, over-the-counter drugs can include anything from aspirin to cold pills, cough syrup and sleep aids. By law, these drugs must provide adequate directions for use in addition to information about possible side effects.

Illegal or Illicit Drugs

  • Illegal drugs, or street drugs, are sold without a prescription. Besides breaking the law, the risks of buying street drugs is not knowing what is in them. With street drugs, buyers also risk having one drug substituted for another without their knowledge.

How Drugs Can Impact Driving

Drugs share similar patterns of effect and are classified by how they influence driver behavior. Listed below are the most common ways drug use can impair driving ability.

  • Coordination – Affects control of a vehicle, such as steering, braking and accelerating
  • Tracking– Impacts a driver’s ability to stay in a lane or maintain a safe following distance
  • Reaction Time– Insufficient response and reactions times can lower a driver’s ability to avoid potential hazards and increase the risk of a collision or losing control of a vehicle
  • Attention– Decreases a driver’s alertness, ability to divide attention, and ability to simultaneously execute driving tasks that require visual, manual, and cognitive processing
  • Perception– Can influence a driver’s ability to accurately process visual cues on the road
  • Judgement– Increases risk-taking behavior