When you picture a drunk driver, you probably picture a young guy leaving a bar on a Friday night, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Statistically, that is the typical drunk driver, although there are always exceptions. Profiling a drugged driver, however, is a little trickier.
As recent data has shown, people driving while under the influence of various drugs—both illicit substances and legal medications—is on the rise and the impairments they experience are very similar to those of drunk drivers. But who is most likely to drive while on drugs? You might be surprised to find out.
Who Takes Drugs and Drives?
In general, drugged driving trends are similar to drunk driving trends. More men than women tend to drive under the influence of drugs, and more young drivers, ages 18 to 24, are guilty of the dangerous practice. However, many of the drivers involved in accidents while under the influence of legal medications or prescription drugs, which can impair driving just as much as alcohol or illegal drugs, are over the age of 50. Consider the following facts:
- In 2010, over 25 percent of drugged drivers in fatal accidents were age 50 and older.
- Illicit drug use among people aged 50 to 59 has doubled in recent years.
- 90 percent of people over the age of 65 take one or more prescription drug and nearly 40 percent take five or more.
- Older adults are more likely to make mistakes with prescriptions that could lead to unintentional intoxication.
The most common prescription drugs found in people involved in fatal accidents include Xanax, Vicodin, OxyContin, and Valium. Young people are much more likely to drive under the influence of illegal drugs than prescription drugs, most commonly marijuana. Surveys of younger drivers have found the following startling results:
- In one study, 12.4 percent of high school seniors report that they drove after smoking pot at least once in the two weeks before the survey.
- In a study of college students with cars, 17 percent reported driving under the influence of a drug other than alcohol. Of those, over 30 percent reported doing so over 10 times in the previous year.
Given these statistics, the likelihood that you are sharing the road with a drugged driver is high. If you are in an accident, the responding officer will have no way to test the at-fault driver for drugs other than alcohol, and he may not be held responsible for his actions.
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