Okay, say you’re at a party. The friends you came with have been drinking, but you haven’t. When it’s time to head home, you’re nervous—you’ve heard all about drunk driving and how dangerous it is. So, what would you do to protect yourself and your friends? Do you have a plan to deal with situations like this?
Now, what would you do if your friends had been smoking pot instead of drinking? It turns out “drugged driving” can be just as dangerous. Someone who’s been smoking pot or doing other drugs puts everyone at risk, including themselves, when they get behind the wheel. They have slower reflexes and so can’t respond as well in an emergency. In fact, if you look at car crashes where the driver is killed, about 1 in 5 involves drugs other than alcohol (like marijuana).
Usually, drugged drivers have been drinking alcohol, too—making them doubly dangerous on the road. Research shows that driving under the influence of both marijuana and alcohol is riskier than with alcohol or marijuana alone.
Look, it’s hard to go against the group. But the last thing we want to do is see our friends get hurt, arrested, or even killed. So, what can we do?
Here are some ideas:
- Stay smart and speak up. Remember that the effects of marijuana and alcohol last for hours, so even if your friends haven’t had a drink in a while, it could still be dangerous for them to drive. If you are in a healthy state of mind and have your driver’s licence on you, ask for the keys and get the group home safely.
- Find another ride. Try to find another sober friends to give you a lift.
- Call someone to pick you up. Okay, so you might not want to call Mom or Dad to get you from a party; but chances are, they’ll be happier that you called them rather than put yourself in a dangerous situation. You also could call another family member.
- Crash at the host’s house. If possible, wait it out until morning and stay put. Just make sure to let someone know where you are and that you are safe.
The best advice: Plan ahead. If you know people will be drinking, pick a “designated driver” before you head out. Better yet, throw your own booze-free bash!
Read more facts and stats about impaired driving.
We live in a world obsessed with multitasking—people are watching TV while texting their friends while updating their Facebook status while tweeting about the latest celebrity gossip. And some people will even multitask behind the wheel of a car—not real smart, and reeeaaally dangerous. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has even launched a Web site devoted to raising awareness about the problem of “distracted driving:” Distraction.gov.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity someone does while driving that could potentially distract them and raise the risk of crashing. Texting and talking on the phone definitely fall into this category, but so does drunk and drugged driving. DOT reports that younger, inexperienced drivers under age 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
Drugged Driving = Danger
Marijuana happens to be the most prevalent illegal drug detected in impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers, and motor vehicle crash victims. That’s partly because the THC in marijuana can alter perception, attention, reaction time, judgment, and other faculties required for safe driving.
Hopefully, you would never drive under the influence of an illegal drug or alcohol—but that doesn’t mean other drivers are making the same positive choices. If you’ve got your eyes on your phone, you might miss something important right in front of you, like a stopped car or someone driving under the influence—weaving, speeding, crawling, or crossing the center line.
So do yourself, your passengers, and other travelers a favor: put your phone down while you’re driving and don’t get high and get behind the wheel.
Visit Distraction.gov for more facts and stats on distracted driving.
Read more NIDA information about drugged driving.
St. Patrick’s Day, once a religious holiday that celebrated the patron saint of Ireland, has become a day for revelry and partying. In fact, it has become one of the biggest drinking days of the year.
Binge drinking—sucking down 4 or 5 drinks within about 2 hours—seems to be encouraged, with many bars hosting day-long parties and serving green beer and Irish whiskey.
Binge Drinking: What’s the Harm?
While downing pints of green beer may be a St. Patrick’s Day tradition for some, it’s really not a good one for your brain. Research shows that binge drinking damages the brain, even if you do it only once in a while. Young people are at special risk, since their brains are still developing—growing and making new connections until their mid-20s.
Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning and also affects the frontal cortex, an area involved with judgment, thinking, memory, and feeling.
Drinking and Driving Is Never Okay
Binge drinking also can have serious consequences after the party’s over. If you’re driving under the influence, or riding with someone who’s drunk, you’ll need a ton of “Irish luck” to get home safely.
St. Patrick’s Day is one of the deadliest on the road. More than 1 in 3 drivers involved in fatal crashes have a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit—and of course, no amount of alcohol is legal for those under age 21.
In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started a program with the slogan, “Kiss Me, I’m Sober,” to keep “buzzed” drivers off the road on St. Patrick’s Day. The first and most important step is to choose a designated driver who will not drink alcohol during the festivities.
St. Patrick’s Day is meant for light-hearted fun, and you don’t have to drink alcohol to enjoy it. What are some ideas for celebrating the greenest holiday without drinking?
For many Americans, celebrating the Fourth of July includes fireworks, parades, sparklers, and backyard picnics. Alongside the hotdogs and potato salad, though, usually sit bottles of beer.
Alcohol is often a part of our cultural celebrations. When someone gets married, we toast the happy couple with champagne. Many people binge drink on St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo. Wherever someone is celebrating, chances are, alcohol is there.
Statistics PDF [138.44 KB] show that the Fourth of July is no exception. Teens and adults alike can end up in unhealthy situations from celebrating with alcohol. During the holiday weekend of July 3–5, 2009, an average of 942 ER visits occurred per day related to alcohol use by people under age 21—two-thirds by young men, which is double the usual number for this group.
When people see others around them drinking alcohol, it can seem like alcohol is harmless. NIDA’s Monitoring the Future study shows that in general, most 12th graders don’t see binge drinking on weekends PDF [1.64 MB] as being very risky. The study also shows that such thinking makes drinking alcohol more likely.
In fact, alcohol is illegal for teens and can alter the developing brain. Further, drinking heavily can lower inhibitions and open the door to taking more risks—such as driving or riding with someone when you really shouldn’t be.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Fourth of July holiday period (July 2–6) is particularly deadly. During the 2010 holiday, 392 people were killed in car crashes, 39% involving a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, which qualifies as a DUI offense.
This Fourth of July, set the example for your friends: Opt for a cold lemonade, and stay safe.
Check out these resources about alcohol and underage drinking:
According to a recent driving study, as many as 1 in 5 teen drivers say they drove under the influence of marijuana. More than one-third of them did not believe that marijuana affected their driving, whereas less than one-fifth of teens who drove after drinking alcohol said their driving wasn’t impaired.
These numbers show that some teen drivers aren’t getting the message that both alcohol and drugs—including marijuana—are dangerous risks behind the wheel. Not only that, but drivers under the influence of these substances endanger other users of the road as well.
Reducing drunk driving has been a focus of public health campaigns in the United States for a long time. After all, SADD, which now stands for Students Against Destructive Decisions, started out as Students Against Drunk Driving. Only recently have people started talking about how driving high or buzzed is just as risky as driving drunk.
Your Brain in the Driver’s Seat
Because driving is such a common activity, it’s easy to forget how you really must stay alert to stay safe. While it may seem like your body goes on automatic when accelerating or changing lanes, really your brain is in high gear.
Drugs and alcohol interfere with the brain’s ability to function properly. THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, affects areas of the brain that control the body’s movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment, so it’s no surprise that marijuana and driving don’t mix.
The driving study mentioned above also found that 90% of teen drivers would stop driving under the influence of marijuana if asked by their passengers. If you see someone who’s about to drive after using marijuana, tell them it’s not a good idea.
Note: Drugs and alcohol aren’t the only things that may mess with your driving skills—check out Distraction.gov to find out about how eating, using a GPS, texting, or talking to passengers can also lead to an accident.