For five years, ending in 2011, the EU research project DRUID (Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol and medicines) investigated the prevalence of alcohol and other drugs in seriously and fatally injured and killed automobile drivers. The statistics showed clearly that drug use and driving are a dangerous combination:
- Among seriously injured drivers, 15% – 30% (depending on the country) were over the legal limit for alcohol in their country.
- Among drivers killed, 15% – 40% were over the legal limit for alcohol.
- The majority of drivers injured or killed had blood alcohol levels at or above 0.5 g/L.
The prevalence of illegal drugs varied considerably between countries. In most countries, cannabis was the most common illegal drug present in the bloodstream of both drivers killed and drivers seriously injured.
In a 2012 survey by automotive services company RAC, 12% of 17-24 year olds in the United Kingdom said they had either driven after taking drugs or been a passenger in a car driven by someone who had taken drugs.
Some prescription drugs can also impair your driving.
What are the risks?
Tests have shown that drugs in your bloodstream seriously impair your ability to drive safely.
Moving, seeing, reacting
- Cannabis affects concentration, can cause blurred vision and reduces your ability to react under pressure.
- LSD causes you to question the information provided by your senses.
- Amphetamines reduce your attention span and make you less likely to react to danger or stop where necessary. In addition, sleep deprivation can impair your driving skills without your realising it.
- Mixing different drugs or mixing drugs and alcohol can make you behave erratically and significantly increases your risk of causing an accident.
- Cocaine gives you a false sense of security and makes you over-sensitive to light and sound.
Laws vary from country to country. Most EU countries have a zero-tolerance approach to driving under the influence of drugs.
If you are caught
The punishment depends on the country, but is likely to include some or all of the following:
- prison sentence
- criminal record
- hefty fine
- more expensive car insurance
- removal of your driving licence – temporarily or indefinitely.