You can’t drive safely if you’re impaired. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, in the U.S., more than 40% of the drivers involved in fatal car crashes tested positive for drugs.
It’s illegal everywhere in America to drive under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, opioids, methamphetamines, or potentially impairing over-the-counter or prescription drugs. Driving while impaired by any substance—legal or illegal—puts you and others in harm’s way.
Many substances can impair driving, including some over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs.
Below is information on the effects of various drugs on drug-impaired driving.
- Marijuana is, by far, the most common drug used while driving. Like alcohol, it impairs the driver’s ability because it slows coordination, judgment, and reaction times. Increased legalization has made this drug much more available and accessible.
- Methamphetamine is the second most common drug of choice among drivers. It can make drivers more aggressive and reckless.
- Cocaine is the third most common drug used while driving. It can also make drivers more aggressive and reckless.
- Stimulants: Both amphetamines and cocaine are stimulants. They change perceptions and reaction time and can cause hallucinations. Drivers may use them to keep working long hours or to complete long-haul assignments.
- Sedatives: Sedatives are a category of drugs that slow brain activity. They are also known as tranquilizers or depressants. Sedatives have a calming effect and can also induce sleep. Sedatives include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and “Z-drug” sleep medications.
- Simultaneous use: Using two or more drugs together, including alcohol, can amplify each drug’s impairing effects.
Below is information about the effects of drugs on driving.
- Some prescription drugs can induce drowsiness, cause nausea, affect judgment, and lessen coordination, all of which can prove fatal when driving.
- Over-the-counter drugs may cause drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, irregular heartbeat, or shakiness. Users should avoid operating motor vehicles if they are experiencing any side effects from medication.
- Prescription drugs such as opioids, sedatives, muscle relaxants, and some antidepressants have increased crash risk.
- A medication may not impair you on its own. However, if taken with a second medication or with alcohol, it may cause impairment.
Violating state DUI laws that make it illegal to drive impaired by any substance can result in arrest. This includes prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications.
Impaired drivers can’t accurately assess their own impairment – which is why no one should drive after using any impairing substances. Remember: If you feel different, you drive differently.
To learn more about the perils of impaired driving, visit NHTSA’s Drug-Impaired Driving website.