15 Jan DRUGS AND DRIVING
WHY ARE DRUGS ARE DRUGS A ROAD SAFETY ISSUE?
Driving whilst under the influence of drugs is a significant road safety issue. You’ve probably heard all about the dangers of drinking and getting behind the wheel, although, mixing drugs and driving can be just as dangerous.
Both illicit drugs and prescription medications can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s ability to drive, cycle or use machinery. These are all tasks that involve being alert and require being able to respond at a fast pace. Being under the influence of drugs can therefore impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely and puts not only yourself but other road users at risk.
The Road Safety Commission studies show that 22% of fatally injured drivers and riders tested positive to one or more illicit substances.
TYPES OF DRUGS AND THEIR IMPACTS ON DRIVING ABILITIES
When an individual consumes illicit drugs prior to driving, this substantially increases the risk of injuring or causing fatalities not only to themselves, but also their friends or other innocent people. The effects of illicit drugs vary substantially depending on the type of drug consumed, and the concentration.
Typically, illicit drugs can be broken down into 3 categories, including depressants, stimulants and psychedelics.
Depressant drugs include alcohol, cannabis, oxycodone, benzodiazepines and heroin, which can all slow down an individuals’ central nervous system. This can lead to reduced reaction times, drowsiness, reduced concentration, difficulty processing information and issues with multitasking.
Stimulant drugs include cocaine and amphetamines, which cause the central nervous system to speed up. This can lead to fidgeting, attention difficulties, increased risk taking, overconfidence in driving skills, and aggressive or dangerous driving.
Psychedelics are any drugs that distort an individuals’ perception of reality such as mescaline, LSD and magic mushrooms. Other drugs such as cannabis and MDMA can potentially cause hallucinogenic effects too. These drugs can often cause confused thinking, hallucinations, blurred vision and significantly reduced coordination.
The Road Safety Commission suggests that the misuse of prescription drugs or lack of awareness of side effects of such medications, can lead to significant road trauma on WA roads.
If you are taking prescription medication it is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with driving. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation mention that the risks associated with prescription drugs include feeling tired, nauseous, dizzy, drowsy, aggressive, light-headed and shaky. These feelings may cause driving to become dangerous as these side effects may impair vision or ability to concentrate.
If you are taking any prescribed or over-the-counter medications, always:
- Carefully read all labels and strictly obey the warnings and directions.
- Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if the drugs are likely to affect your driving abilities.
- Organise alternative transportation as advised.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS IN WA?
Members of the Police force have the power to stop drivers that they suspect are driving while impaired by any type of drug. Those found with illicit drugs in their oral fluid can be further charged with the offence of ‘Driving with Prescribed Illicit Drug in Oral Fluid.’
Any drivers who are found to be impaired due to the use of prescription or illicit drugs will be charge with a far more serious offence, ‘Drug Impaired Driving under the Influence of Drugs.’
PLANNING AHEAD TO GET HOME SAFELY
The Alcohol and Drug Foundations research suggests that by getting behind the wheel after taking drugs your chances of having a crash increases. Therefore, it is important to plan ahead in order to get home safely.
Plan ahead and avoid the risks of driving under the influence by:
- Organise travel arrangements before you go out.
- Stay the night, if it is not safe to drive.
- Nominate an individual from your group to take responsibility of everyone getting home safely, or to be the designated driver who will not have drugs in their system.
- Always make sure you have money for transport whether you are catching a taxi/bus or train home.
- Always look out for your friends, you want them to get home safe too.
- Set a personal rule that you don’t drive under the influence of drugs, and that you don’t go in a car with a driver that is on drugs.
You can read more about talking about vaping with young people here:
ADF Article: https://adf.org.au/insights/drugs-and-driving/
Transport for NSW Article: https://roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/stayingsafe/alcoholdrugs/drugdriving/index.html
Western Australian Police Force Article: https://www.police.wa.gov.au/Traffic/Offences/Drug-driving
Road Safety Commission Article: https://www.rsc.wa.gov.au/Your-Safety/Behaviours/drug-driving
Drug Aware Article: https://www.mhc.wa.gov.au/media/1233/drugs-and-driving-dont-mix-booklet.pdf
Road Safety Council Article: https://www.rsc.wa.gov.au/Your-Safety/Behaviours/drug-driving
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