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Lincoln – Don't have one last alcoholic beverage “for the road" if you're about to get on the road. December is designated as Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month to draw attention to the lifesaving topic, as drunk and drugged driving often increases in December due to travel and holiday parties with alcohol.
Each year, more than 10,700 people – one-third of all vehicle-related fatalities - are killed by drivers under the influence of alcohol and other drugs, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
In Nebraska, drunk and drugged driving accounted for about 24 percent of all vehicle-related fatalities in 2019, a 14.7 percent drop from 2018.
Many substances can impair driving, including alcohol, some over-the-counter and prescription drugs, and illegal drugs, noted the NHTSA. Alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs can impair the ability to drive because they slow coordination, judgment, and reaction times. Cocaine and methamphetamine can make drivers more aggressive and reckless. Opioids can cause drowsiness and impair thinking and judgment. As well, some prescription and over-the-counter medicines can cause extreme drowsiness, dizziness, and other side effects. Read and follow all warning labels before driving, and note that warnings against “operating heavy machinery" include driving a vehicle.
The most commonly found drug among drivers involved in vehicle crashes is alcohol, which can be detected using either a breathalyzer device or a blood test. Alcohol levels are measured by the weight of the alcohol in a certain volume of blood. This is called blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A BAC of .08 grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood dramatically increases the chances of a car crash. It is illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC of .08 or higher in the U.S., and some local areas and states have more stringent requirements. Also, some people can become significantly impaired even with lower blood alcohol concentrations.
However, it is currently hard to measure how many crashes are caused by drugged driving.
This is because a good roadside test for drug levels in the body doesn't yet exist; some drugs can stay in your system for days or weeks after use, making it difficult to determine when the drug was used, and therefore, how and if it impaired driving; police don't usually test for drugs if drivers have reached an illegal blood alcohol level because there's already enough evidence for a DUI charge, and many drivers who cause crashes are found to have both drugs and alcohol in their systems.
Using two or more drugs at the same time, including alcohol, can amplify the impairing effects of each drug a person has consumed, leading to increased risk. Even small amounts of drugs can have a large effect.
It's important to remember that impaired drivers can't accurately assess their own impairment – which is why no one should drive after using any impairing substances.
How to keep yourself and others safe?