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Substance Abuse Linked to Car Crashes

Becoming intoxicated or using psychoactive (i.e. mind-altering) drugs can be dangerous to begin with, but getting behind the wheel of a car while abusing these substances is exponentially more so. Instead of having nothing you have given yourself a giant heavy object to potentially harm yourself and others. Substance abuse not only puts the driver at risk but it makes him or her a hazard for passengers and anyone else on the road.

The Prevalence of Substance Abuse in Car Crashes

Recent studies show that every day almost thirty people in the U.S. die in motor vehicle crashers that involve a driver impaired by alcohol. In 2010, alcohol-impaired driving crashes made up almost one third of all traffic-related fatalities in America. And that is just the deaths. It doesn't count for the thousands of other drunk driving accidents that occur without fatalities. Substance abuse from drugs also accounts for a large number of accidents, although it's harder to measure because blood tests aren't always performed for drugs and drugged drivers are usually drunk as well. But a NHTSA study in 2009 found that 18% of drivers fatally injured in a crash tested positive for at least one prescription, over-the-counter, or illicit drug.

Alcohol is the most common substance abuse encountered in car wrecks and THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) is the second. Many drivers are found abusing alcohol and drugs at the same time, and it can often be hard to tell exactly which contributed the most to the wreck. Other drugs implicated in crashes include amphetamines, opiates, cocaine, and benzodiazepines. Many prescription drugs, such as pain relievers and those provided for sleep disorders, come with warnings against driving while taking them.

How it Happens

The effects of alcohol and various drugs on the brain depend on what's taken and how much. Abusing substances in any form, even smoking a little bit of marijuana or having a few beers, can greatly impair the body's physical and mental facilities that are necessary for safe driving. Substance abuse negatively affects things like reaction time, perception, balance and coordination, motor skills, attention, and judgment. Obviously the more you abuse the substance the worse your condition will be, but even a little bit can put your driving abilities at a liability.

How to Fix it


The law tries to prevent substance-related car crashes by setting a minimum drinking age, setting a maximum BAC level, and taking away the licenses of intoxicated drivers. Law enforcement officials work to actively enforce these laws and also run sobriety checkpoints. Society on a national and local scale can help by promoting safe drinking and driving campaigns. But ultimately it is up to the individual to prevent the substance abuse. The most the government and police can do is try to subdue it once it has already happened.

To prevent any car wrecks from happening when drinking is involved make sure you have a designated driver before the night begins. If you have a party, remind people to designate drivers and take keys away if you have to. If you are at someone else's party or have been drinking in town be sure to call a taxi or a friend to give you a ride home.

If you've been in an accident and have a broken windshield, you should consult an auto glass expert, preferably one who specializes in windshield repair. Auto glass repair shops come in all shapes and sizes, so you should shop around and find a shop you can trust. Fixing auto glass problems is hard to do without the proper tools, so make sure you don't try it yourself.