Impaired Driving: All That You Should Know

Impaired status of consciousness and your body, what does it mean really? In other words, think of it as not being able to perform at something, however, which you will generally be able to do without any predicament contrarily. 

Almost half of the accidents are linked to driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol directly or indirectly. You will be startled to grasp the stats. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 29 people die in the US every day because of driving under the influence. 

Thus, impaired driving stands for not able to drive the way a driver is supposed to otherwise. But why the driver is unable to operate in the first place? As the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both. Let’s find out more.The government is even acute when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse while driving on the road. Many might not be associating but causing a death while driving under the influence can invite up to 14 years in jail. Plus, a minimum of a 2-year prohibition on driving. 

What Is Impaired Driving?

Impaired driving

Impaired driving is driving a vehicle while being impaired due to consumption of alcoholic substance or drug abuse. Furthermore, resulting in altered driving capabilities and poor judgment when behind the wheel. 

While you might be thinking that it is a prominent issue, one should not drink and drive. However, this is not this simple. Drug abuse is just not because of having one too many drinks at a party or Marijuana consumption. It can also be the side-effect of prescription drugs. 

Prescription drugs available over-the-counter to combat a mere issue of blood pressure can cause impaired driving and reduced ability to make sound judgments. However, according to various surveys and reports concerning authorities, drug abuse and alcohol consumption are the prime factors of impaired driving.

Almost all the state in the US have zero-tolerance law to curb impaired driving instances. Driving Under Influence (DUI) and Driving While intoxicated (DWI) can destroy your relationships with friends and family. Below 21 years of age can be convicted to serve time in jail with other difficulties. 

1. Alcohol-Impaired Driving

Alcohol is indeed a magic liquid. The more you have it, the lesser you will have control over yourself. However, it is also true that even a small glass of alcohol can reduce one’s judging abilities. Moreover, resulting in lesser control of muscle coordination. Plus, this can further affect reflexes to become slower and have a blurry or impaired vision. 

Alcohol-impaired driving is one of the preeminent causes of death while on the roads. Impaired driving has converted into a prominent cause of pedestrians and cyclist’s injuries and death in accidents. Besides, causing harm to them. 

Blood Alcohol Concentration or BAC effects suggest that having as low as one drink can make a person have difficulty tracking a moving object. Also can cause divided attention leading to the inability to perform more than one task at a time and, for example, not being able to identify the type and make of passing vehicles. 

2. Drug-Impaired Driving

Like alcohol-impaired driving, drug abuse, or being under the influence of any prescription or illegal substance, it is called drug-impaired driving. Furthermore, as much as half of the alcohol-impaired drivers were the user of drug abuse. 

It is crucial to note that different users react differently to a similar type of drug. For example, a 20s-year-old male can be under the influence of Marijuana longer than a male in his 40s or vice-versa. It does not matter how much drug abuse can become fatal for driving purposes. 

Similarly, most people stay under the wrong impression that it is alright to consume drugs in minute quantities. Furthermore, this incorrect impression that consuming the drugs in smaller portions will not affect their ability to drive has become a false perception for many.

Many consider it alright to utilize drugs because they think that everyone around them is also consuming or their peer is using drugs. However, it is not the case. According to a report submitted by the American College of Health Association, a study done on their students revealed shocking perceptions. 

Based on the paper, 57% of the participating students reported never using Marijuana but believed that 88% of their fellow students were consuming Marijuana. 

3. Mind-Altering Substances

The world has become an open encyclopedia for everybody to have access to everything at their fingertips. It has become easier than ever to access everything, especially with everything being widely available online under simple disguise. 

More so, legal issues and safety perception cease to control abusers from accessing and using the drugs that can impair them for life. These can very well cause users to be dependent on them, known as psychological addiction in people.

a. Depressants

The substance that slows down stimulation and the ability to feel emotions are depressants. These are consumed by swallowing, injecting, drinking, snorted, or inhaled. However, these are not necessarily linked with being depressed or feeling low. These substances will affect the user’s nervous system, which will result in slower coordination between the body and the brain while driving.

However, in smaller quantities, these substances will make the user feel relaxed and at ease but taking away motor skill coordination. But in higher amounts, these can very well become the trigger to worse outcomes like nausea, vomiting, mood swings, or death.

Common Depressant

  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines
  • GHB
  • Kava

b. Narcotics

Similar to the above depressants, the narcotic substance can cause one to feel euphoria and increased heartbeat. So, this can potentially impair the user to make judgments on the road. This substance can numb a person’s ability to respond by affecting their concentration and coordination while driving.

Types Of Narcotic Substance

  • Heroin
  • Morphine

c. Stimulants

These substances are known to speed up the messages between the brain and the body of the user. Resulting in the user feel more energetic and confident under the influence. Stimulants can make one feel more alert, along with the feeling of euphoria.

Long-term uses can lead to chronic anxiety, seizures, cramps, headaches, aggression, panic, paranoia, increased heart-rate, etc. Stimulants are snorted, swallowed, smoked, or injected into the body. Generally, this includes the following:

  • Amphetamines
  • Betel Nuts
  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine
  • Ice
  • Mephedrone
  • Nicotine
  • Synthetic Cathinones

d. Hallucinogens

Like other substances, hallucinogens changes the perceptions of how a person thinks and reacts to certain situations—often termed as mind-altering drugs. Drug abuse can cause serious harm physically and psychologically to the ones using and the people around them.

Addiction to the need to take such mind-altering drugs can very well result from clinical conditions, such as depression. These can cause the drivers to have witness short-term memory loss and significant violent behavior on the road along with visual impairment. 

Common hallucinogens

  • Marijuana
  • Hashish
  • LSD
  • PCP

How Police Detect Impaired Drivers

For handling driving impairments, officers are trained accordingly. Trained to identify the substance abuse status by utilizing the senses of smell, sight, and hearing to document in their reports. Following are some of the clues officers use to identify impaired drivers:

  • Angry and frustrated reactions.
  • Can not listen or follow the instruction given by the police officer.
  • Have bloodshot eyes and soiled items of clothing.
  • Slurry speech and fumbling.
  • Inconsistent statements and responses.
  • Cover-up odors along with other unusual smells.
  • Abusive and defensive language.
  • Admission to drinking and using drugs.
  • Alcohol bottles and containers.
  • Unusual actions while coming out of the car.
  • Leaving the car in gear.

1. Standardized Field Sobriety Test

Police conduct this test comprising of three different tasks to assess whether the driver is under the influence of any substance or not. Police can ask the driver to undergo breath testing or a blood sample if he/she fails on SFST. These three tasks can test the abilities of a driver well and are allowed in court as evidence. SFST test includes:

  • Horizontal Gaze
  • Walk and turn test
  • One-leg stand test

2. Breath Testing

If a driver fails SFST, the police will ask to perform breath testing to check the driver’s BAC or Blood Alcohol Content. Usually, this works by estimating the alcohol content in the air the drivers breath-out on the machine.

Breath testing can measure the alcohol content as soon as 15 minutes after consuming alcohol. However, the alcohol content is highest in the air drivers breath out, about an hour after devouring it. 

3. Drug Recognition Evaluation

When a driver fails on the above two sets of the test, a Drug Recognition Expert or DRE officer will evaluate the driver impairment based on 12 steps of DRE. These steps are to identify and conclude three aspects of impairment:

  1. That the driver is impaired
  2. Impairment is due to drugs and not from a medical condition.
  3. Category of drugs.

Following Are The Twelve Steps To DRE:

  1. BAC count.
  2. Interview by the Arresting Officer.
  3. Preliminary Examination.
  4. Eye Examination.
  5. Test For Divided Attention 
  6. Examination For Vital signs.
  7. Pupil size Darkroom examination.
  8. Muscle tone.
  9. Injection sites Examination.
  10. Interrogation and statements.
  11. The opinion of a DRE officer.
  12. Obtaining a specimen for a Toxicology report

4. Approved Drug Screening Devices

These devices are used to screen the driver for examining alcohol content in their blood and several other tests to identify drug abuse. The officer will take the swab from the mouth or blood sample to test on various parameters. They can also ask to give a urine sample. 

What To Do About Impaired Driving

It is the responsibility of oneself to make sure they behave and keep the people around them safe. Often, impaired driving is an act of impulsive decisions after consuming alcohol or being under drugs’ influence. It is crucial to identify the triggers and avoid them in advance. 

Follow Certain Rules To Avoid Such Situations That Can Arise Due To Intoxication:

  • Be responsible.
  • Plan in advance to have a non-drinking partner or driver to accompany when drinking with a group.
  • Refusing and forbidding your friends and family to drive while they are impaired.
  • Use cab services to drive you back home or make use of a share a ride service whenever possible in case you are drinking. 
  • When hosting a drinking party, make arrangements for your guests. Have them plan and inform in advance about how they plan to get back to their respective places after the party.
  • Make sure your guests leave your party with a sober driver or have them book a cab to get back. 
  • Make cautious driving arrangements when inviting or taking part in an event where alcohol is served. 
  • Spend the night or until you are sober if you have no other option. 
  • Make sure to keep your vehicle at a safe distance if you see anyone driving erratically on the road. 
  • Take initiative to stop others from driving while being drugged or under alcohol influence.
  • Never try to misguide police by lying to them. Better to confront. 


For many people drinking and using drugs can be an activity of having fun and relaxation. Furthermore, being intoxicated to celebrate certain occasions or a small or big victory. For example, it is because your friend is getting married, getting a promotion, or it is the last day of your graduation, etc. It is easy to get carried away while enjoying yourself. 

It is easy to let go of the inhibition, especially after one has had a few drinks. But, keeping yourself and others around you safe requires predetermined decisions and calculated judgments. When you understand how crucial it is to have plans in place, you will not be this irresponsible. It is critical to know that it is life-threatening to drive under the influence.

According to statistics, one person is killed every 30 minutes due to road accidents caused by impaired driving. Your best defense against such a scenario is to prevent this from happening in the first place.

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