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Both drunk, drugged driving are dangerous

Oct. 25, 2013 @ 04:55 PM

Driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is dangerous at a minimum, and lethal in a worst-case scenario.

It is both a public health and a public safety issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are almost 30 people in the United States who die in a motor vehicle crash that involved an alcohol-impaired driver daily, or about one death every 48 minutes. The CDC estimates the annual cost of alcohol-related automobile crashes totals more than $51 billion.

The U.S. DHHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) reviewed several studies and found as many as 25 percent of drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents tested positive for drugs and 18 percent of motor vehicle driver deaths involved drugs (visit www.samhsa.gov).

Alcohol and other drugs impair a person's ability to think clearly and judge situations correctly. Basic brain functions required to safely operate a motor vehicle, including perceptions, cognition, attention, balance, memory, fine motor skills, coordination and others are impaired.

The amount of impairment is directly related to the type of drug or alcohol used, the amount used, the tolerance built up in the individual and personal metabolism. The amount of alcohol or other drugs it would take to produce impairment in driving can be very different from one person to another.

Most individuals believe that if they are prescribed a medication from their physician, it is safe to do the things they would normally do, including driving, while taking that prescription. This may not be the case at all. Some sleeping pills recently changed labeling information to include a warning about driving impairment the following day after taking the medication.

Often, the individual under the influence of alcohol or a prescription medication is unable to accurately determine their own level of impairment or ability to drive a motor vehicle.

Drunk and drugged driving is a crime that leaves a permanent mark on the person's driving record. In West Virginia, a person suspected of driving under the influence is given a roadside sobriety test by law enforcement and can be tested further for alcohol and other drugs. If the roadside sobriety test is failed, the person is arrested and goes to jail. A more accurate breathalyzer test and print out confirmation level of alcohol on the breath is obtained, or a drug test can then be completed.

A court hearing is scheduled and the person charged pleads his or her case. If the plea is not guilty, there could be an administrative hearing with the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. In most cases, the privilege of driving is eventually suspended and the driver's license is surrendered.

Obtaining a substance abuse evaluation and taking a course in DUI safety, education and treatment by a DMV-approved provider like Prestera Center helps people earn back their driving privileges and driver's license.

There are financial, social and emotional consequences of drunk and drugged driving. Automobile insurance may double or triple for the next 5-7 years because of the DUI.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) suggests several ways citizens and communities can prevent drunk and drugged driving. Routine sobriety checkpoints have reduced alcohol-related crash fatalities by 9 percent (see www.cdc.gov). Checkpoints help enforce the law for legally driving under the influence of alcohol (currently 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration for adults older than 21 and 0.00% for 16- to 20-year-olds). Lowering the limit to 0.05 percent may further reduce drunk driving.

Vehicle "interlock" devices installed into the ignition of the vehicle prevents the engine from starting until the breath blown into the device is completely free from alcohol. Raising the price of alcohol by increasing the tax on beer, wine, and/or hard liquor is another effective approach to reducing alcohol consumption decreasing drunk driving, according to www.cdc.gov.

Some common sense suggestions for preventing drinking and driving involve planning ahead in order to avoid a situation where you have to drive after drinking. Calling a taxi cab or designating one person who is not drinking or using drugs to be the "designated driver" are two examples. Don't allow friends who have been drinking to drive. Take away car keys. And, if planning to host a party where alcohol will be served, remind guests to plan ahead and designate a sober driver. Offer some alcohol-free drinks and make sure every guest leaves with a sober driver.

Successful implementation of drunk and drugged driving prevention and intervention efforts, combined with education and treatment hold the most promise for improving safety on our roads. Consistent testing for drugged driving combined with strict laws, enforcement, prosecution and consistent practices for collecting specimens for drug testing will continue to improve safety for everyone on the road.

If you or someone you know has been involved in drinking or drugs and driving, getting help quickly is important. Prestera Center offers rapid intake and effective treatment. Prestera Center offers DUI offenders the assessment, education and treatment programs that satisfy DMV requirements to resume driving privileges. Individuals and families get better with the right kind of care. Prestera Center offers a variety of services that promote addiction recovery and mental wellness, helping people achieve their full potential.

Prestera Center offers Putnam County residents access to effective professional mental health and addictions treatment services in Winfield and Hurricane. Offices in Winfield are located at 3389 Winfield Road, Suite 8, on the grounds of the Courthouse Complex (304-586-0670). Offices in Hurricane are called "Hopewell" and are located at 3772 Teays Valley Road (304-757-8475). The Hopewell offices specialize in serving adults with insurance in need of addiction treatment and mental health problems like grief, depression and anxiety or more severe mental health problems. Both offices are accepting new clients and scheduling appointments. Walk-ins are also welcome Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. at the Winfield location.

Kim Miller is the director of Corporate Development at Prestera. She can be reached at kim.miller@prestera.org.

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