Impaired Driving: How Drugs and Alcohol Affect Teen Drivers
By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: June 29, 2012
It is always exciting when you first get your license and your parents allow you to drive the car on your own! While many teenagers handle this responsibility just fine, others end up in accidents. In many cases, these accidents occur because the driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol or perhaps distracted by other things. Even if the driver survives the accident, passengers or people in other cars involved in the collision may end up seriously injured or even dead. Imagine the horror of having to say goodbye to a best friend or sibling. Imagine waking up in a hospital and finding out that you killed somebody because you insisted on driving after drinking. The results of an accident due to careless, impaired or distracted driving can never be undone. You cannot bring someone back to life or undo an injury that left a person permanently paralyzed. However, these things can be avoided through safer driving practices. A car isn’t just a vehicle or a convenience. It is a large, powerful machine that is capable of causing death or horrific injuries if it is not handled safely and responsibly. You wouldn’t chop vegetables with a sharp knife while turning your head to talk to someone, you might cut your fingers! In the same way, we all owe it to ourselves and others to help keep the roads safe.

Drugs and Driving

Many teens end up taking drugs because their friends pressure them into it. They may feel that they will be left out if they don’t participate when everyone else is doing drugs. Even more dangerously, they may drive while still under the influence of drugs. Drugs affect our judgment, perception, reflexes and other abilities in many different ways. Remember that even prescription drugs can have strong effects on our minds and bodies. It is for this reason that many medications warn people not to operate vehicles while consuming them. Despite this, many drugged drivers mistakenly insist that they feel fine enough to drive. The best way to avoid drugged driving is by not taking drugs at all. If you do encounter someone on drugs, don’t allow them to drive. Instead, offer to drive if you are sober, call a taxi or take a bus.

Alcohol and Driving

For many teens, being able to drink alcohol seems to symbolize the fact that they are growing up. However, the hard truth is that it is illegal to drink if you are still under 21 years of age. Underage drinking can result in a fine and, in some cases, jail time. If you are of age, there is a big difference between enjoying alcohol responsibly in a legal manner and bingeing on alcohol or drinking and driving. Alcohol affects everybody in a different way, based on individual tolerance and physical build. For example, a small female might feel much more drunk after two drinks than a tall, muscular male. Drunk driving accidents can cause permanent physical damage and result in death. Driving while intoxicated should never be an option.

Distracted Driving

Even if you are not impaired by drugs or alcohol, there is another factor that can cause unnecessary accidents: distracted driving. Think about how many times you or other drivers have driven while talking on a cell phone, texting or being distracted by passengers in the car. Some drivers only pay half attention to the road because they are busy applying makeup, unwrapping a hamburger, setting details on their GPS or changing the radio station. You might only take your eyes off the road for a split second, but that’s all it takes to fail to see a car suddenly cutting into your lane or a child darting across the street. Another factor that causes accidents is when people drive even though they are tired. If you are tired, take a break from driving or don’t get in the car in the first place. It is better to pull over on the side of the road, lock the doors and even nap for a little while rather than continue to drive and endanger yourself and others.