The term "impaired driving" doesn't necessarily mean operating a vehicle after consuming alcohol. While alcohol consumption continues to be the major cause of impairment, it isn't the only one. Impairment is caused by anything that reduces a person's ability to drive a vehicle responsibly or react appropriately to dangerous conditions.
If you have ever driven while tired, after taking over-the-counter medication that makes you drowsy (such as cold remedies or sleep aids) or after taking illegal drugs, you have probably been impaired.
Drugs and Driving
A 2007 roadside survey concluded by the U.S.-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that alcohol-impaired driving had decreased by about 2% since 1973, when a similar study was conducted.
The earlier study only looked at the effects of alcohol, while the 2007 study looked at additional substances as factors for impaired driving. It found that 16.3% of night time, weekend drivers tested positive for drugs, most commonly marijuana (8.6%), cocaine (3.9%), and over-the-counter and prescription drugs (3.9%).
Any drug that changes your mood or the way you see and feel will affect the way you drive, whether the drugs are illegal or not. Check the labels on your medications to ensure that they will not affect your ability to drive safely. If your driving ability is at risk, plan alternate ways to get around while you are taking the medication.
Another form of impairment that can lead to disastrous consequences is driver fatigue. Tired drivers are responsible for one in five traffic-related fatalities in BC. When taking long trips, it's especially important to plan ahead and start out after a good night's sleep. Here are some other things you can do to make sure you don't become a statistic:
- Allow enough time to get to your destination.
- Take plenty of rest breaks.
- When you stop for a rest, go for a walk, change drivers, or take a nap.
- Avoid overnight driving and break up your trip into shorter driving days.
- Keep a window open for fresh air and don't set the temperature in the car too high.
- Turn on the radio or talk to a passenger.