23 year old Colorado resident Tanya Guevara just wanted to get home safe and sound with her son on that day in 2010. But that would never happen, thanks to 22 year old drug user Steven Ryan, who took the pair’s lives in a marijuana-related auto crash. The court later sentenced Ryan to 10 years for killing the young mother and her five-week-old child. But no amount of jail time can restore the innocent lives Ryan took because he got behind the wheel of his car while impaired. This tragedy is but one example of the drugged driving epidemic that’s exploding across the country.
It’s Not Just Alcohol Anymore
The classic stereotype of impaired drivers conjures up images of an beer-swilling motorist leaving a bar after he’s had a few dozen for the road. But drugged driving, defined as operating a motor vehicle while abusing drugs other than alcohol, is now the leading cause of US traffic fatalities. Studies cite a number of causes for this growing problem, including the movement to legalize marijuana. Whatever the reasons, though, the effects of drugged driving on innocent people are all too real.
States Slow to Take Action
These disturbing facts have done little to close the many loopholes that allow drugged drivers to escape justice. For example, while all 50 states have laws against drugged driving, many of these statutes exempt popular street drugs such as marijuana. Others cripple the power of police officers to collect samples of the driver’s blood, urine, or saliva for use as evidence. Many observers believe that only a nationwide campaign, similar to that launched in 1980 by the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), will force lawmakers to address this issue.
In the meantime, the best weapon to fight the problem is public awareness. So let’s look at how specific drugs impede a motorist’s ability to operate a vehicle:
- Marijuana has effects similar to alcohol. It slows reaction times and makes drivers less alert to road conditions.
- Cocaine makes drivers angry and aggressive. It’s a leading cause of road rage. Many cocaine-fueled drivers have attacked other motorists as well as law enforcement officers.
- Meth fuels paranoia, delusions, and homicidal urges in drivers.
- MDPV, known on the street as “bath salts,” can provoke hallucinations in which users see monsters, aliens, or demons. Needless to say, these effects can impair motor skills.
Be Part of the Solution, Not the Problem
Drugged driving is, at its heart, a behavioral issue. It only exists because a portion of the population chooses to disregard the safety and well-being of others. Some of these people are self-centered and irresponsible by nature. Others, however, are fundamentally decent human beings who give in to temptation or the lure of drug addiction. If you fall into the latter category, then now is the time to get clean. Otherwise you might spend the rest of your life burdened by guilt and followed by a felony record everywhere you go. Here are some ways you can help yourself to win the struggle against drugs and alcohol:
- Change the environmental cues that trigger abuse. This may mean finding new friends, moving to a new location, or even rearranging items in your home. But the rewards make these efforts more than worthwhile.
- Watch what you’re thinking. Sometimes the causes of drug abuse begin in the mind, not your surroundings. So monitor what’s going on inside of you and catch yourself before your thoughts spur you to actions you’ll later regret.
- Surrender your access to a vehicle. Sometimes the only way to avoid harming others is to hand the keys to a responsible party. This may sound drastic, but it’s better than killing someone.
Driving an automobile is a huge responsibility. You can prove yourself worthy of the privilege by staying sober and by spreading the word about the dangers of drugged driving. So stay safe and help others to do the same. It’s the right thing to do.
About the Author
-Adam Cook is interested in helping people find the necessary resources to save their lives from addiction. His mission is aligned with AddictionHub’s to help people find support with issues relating to addiction.