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How do drugs affect driving?

Most drivers in Arizona understand that driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal but are unsure of how drugs come into play. Some may think that prescription and/or legal drugs have no affect on driving, but this is not true. Medications impair driving in different ways, and people found with drugs in their system can be charged with drugged driving, which comes with similar penalties as a DUI.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there has been a large increase in the use of prescription drugs, marijuana and other illegal drugs by drivers. This has affected safety on the roads, and these users are more likely to be involved in vehicle crashes.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports a survey found that almost 12 million people drive under the influence of drugs. With the increase of opioid addiction, and with the legalization of marijuana in many states, there are more drivers on the road that are impaired in some way.

Marijuana affects driving in the following way. It:

  • Decreases coordination
  • Weakens judgment of distance and time 
  • Slows down reaction time
  • Increases lane weaving

Illegal and prescription drugs can cause:

  • Recklessness
  • Dizziness
  • Aggressiveness
  • Drowsiness

Because of the impairment effects, some states charge for a DUI if any amount of drugs is found from urine or blood tests. The issue is that it is more challenging to test for drug use than for alcohol use. One of the reasons is there is not a reliable roadside test that can define drug levels. In many crashes there is also alcohol involved, making it difficult to determine which substance was the major cause. 


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