In 2016, 20.7 million Americans 16 or older drove while under the influence of alcohol. 11.8 million Americans drove under the influence of drugs in the same year. Impaired driving is a serious issue in the United States for people of all ages. Operating a vehicle is even more dangerous, however, if the driver is under the influence of both alcohol and drugs.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol For All of Us
Despite the severe regulations that most states have on drinking and driving, many people get behind the wheel while intoxicated. In 2015, 10,265 people died in car accidents involving drinking and driving. Most of the people responsible for the fatalities were frequent or heavy drinkers. Almost two-thirds of impaired drivers and 72% of those who hit and killed pedestrians had blood alcohol contents of at least 1.5.
Drinking and Driving Outside of the United States
The United States has more lenient drinking and driving regulations than most other countries. 30 countries outside of the United States consider any blood alcohol content above 0.5 illegal. Many other countries have a zero-tolerance policy that makes any reading of alcohol illegal. In Japan, a police officer can arrest a driver just for looking drunk.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
Depending on the drug, driving under the influence of drugs could cause a driver to be reckless, aggressive, have a decreased reaction time, or a variety of other effects. With some drugs, even a small amount can severely impair driving ability, leading many states to enact a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence of drugs.
Other than alcohol, marijuana is the most common drug that impaired drivers are using. Research revealed that people affected by THC are twice as likely to get in a deadly accident. Prescription drugs are also one of the more common drugs for impaired drivers. Most of the prescription drugs drivers were using were painkillers.
Unlike alcohol, it is difficult to measure driving under the influence of drugs. The reasons why it is more difficult to track include:
- There is not yet a good roadside test for drug impairment
- Police do not usually test for drugs when alcohol already impairs the driver
- Many drivers have both drugs and alcohol in their systems
Because of the growing legalization of marijuana, researchers across the country are working to create an effective roadside test for THC levels.
Driving After Mixing Drugs and Alcohol
Many impaired drivers mixed drugs and alcohol. Mixing multiple drugs or mixing alcohol and drugs is extremely dangerous and often exacerbates the effects of each. Additionally, extensive use of drugs and alcohol can permanently impact your life in areas such as relationships, work, and mental and physical functioning. Some impaired drivers did not intend to mix drugs and alcohol. People who take prescription drugs do not always check the warnings to see whether they can safely drink alcohol while taking the medication.
Mixing Alcohol and Street Drugs
Alcohol is most commonly mixed with cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. Cocaine produces a sense of euphoria, leading many people to use it alongside alcohol to intensify the effects of intoxication.
Mixing cocaine and alcohol can lead to side effects such as:
- Heart damage
- Chest pain
- Inappropriate behavior
The increased legalization of marijuana has also increased the number of drivers who use alcohol and marijuana in conjunction with each other.
Some of the side effects of mixing marijuana and alcohol include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Impaired coordination and judgment
- Memory problems
The third most common drug mixed with alcohol is heroin. Heroin is a depressant that can have severe effects on your physical and mental functions.
Some of the side effects of mixing alcohol and heroin include:
- Mood swings
- Attention problems
- Coordination issues
All the side effects that come with mixing alcohol and drugs can seriously impair a person’s ability to drive safely.