In the New York Times, Abby Goodnough and Katie Zezima highlight the problem of “drugged driving,” or driving while under the influence of a drug that impairs driving ability:
The behavioral effects of prescription medication vary widely, depending not just on the drug but on the person taking it. Some, like anti-anxiety drugs, can dull alertness and slow reaction time; others, like stimulants, can encourage risk-taking and hurt the ability to judge distances. Mixing prescriptions, or taking them with alcohol or illicit drugs, can exacerbate impairment and sharply increase the risk of crashing, researchers say.
It’s hard to get good numbers on drug-impaired driving arrests, since states often lump them together with drunk driving arrests for reporting purposes. Law enforcement officers see it as a problem that’s growing quickly, though.
While the article focuses on the difficulty of defining drug-impaired driving and prosecuting those who’ve driven while impaired by medication, I couldn’t help but wonder about the role of transportation issues. It’s hard to tell someone that if he’s taking a prescription drug he can’t drive, because driving is essential for much of our population. But what if it weren’t? If reliable, affordable, convenient public transportation were available to more of our population, it would be easier for a driver to hang up the car keys while medicated.