By Mica Moeller, ASAC Prevention Specialist
Graduation parties are a celebratory time for graduates and their family and friends. The last thing anybody expects is a tragedy to occur. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people 15-18 years old (NHTSA). A large number of these accidents occur due to driving under the influence. To avoid a tragedy, we all need to be safe, smart drivers this graduation season. Avoid driving impaired to protect yourself and those around you.
We have heard it before: Alcohol-impaired driving can cause fatal accidents. Teenage impaired driving has decreased by about 50% since 1991 (CDC). But about 1 in 10 teens in high school reported drinking and driving. Also, about one quarter of fatal teen car accidents involved underage drinking (MADD). This isn’t just our teens, though. In the past 30 days, 3.1% of adults reported driving impaired in Iowa. This is higher than the national average at 1.9% (CDC).
You need to find other means of transportation when you are under the influence. In urban areas, there is access to public transportation, Uber, Lyft, and taxis. In rural areas there isn’t as much available transportation. Having a designated driver, calling someone sober to pick you up from a graduation party, or staying until you’re sober may be your only options. Driving while intoxicated is not worth your life or the life of someone else.
Other Substances Can Impair Driving, Too
We are still learning about driving while impaired with other substances, especially regarding marijuana in states where recreational use is legal. Specific drugs have different effects on driving based on how they act in the brain. Cocaine or methamphetamine can make drivers become aggressive and reckless (NIDA). Certain prescription medicines can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired cognitive function (NIDA). Marijuana can cause slow reaction time and impaired judgment of time and distance (NIDA). Mixing substance can cause even greater impairments.
After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often found in the blood of drivers involved in a motor vehicle crash. More research is needed regarding marijuana because we know that THC can be detected in bodily fluids for days or weeks after use. If you are under the influence of any substance you should seek other means of transportation or have a sober driver.