There’s lots of discussion these days about two huge dangers for motor vehicle accidents here in Indiana and Illinois: distracted driving and drunk driving are both known to be the cause of many serious car crashes and fatal traffic accidents.
Distracted driving is getting more and more attention and causing more and more concern as research reveals how often drivers are using their phones or are otherwise distracted while driving in traffic.
Drunk driving, of course, is a known danger and a huge reason for many very serious car accidents and traffic fatalities.
March 2016 Drunk Driving Campaign by Law Enforcement
In fact, as the Saint Patrick’s Day holiday and Easter both arrive this month there will be serious police and law enforcement campaigns to try and protect people on the roads here over those weekend holidays.
Beginning this Friday (March 4) and continuing through March 27, 2016, for instance, the Indiana State Police are operating with an increased focus on pulling over and ticketing (or arresting) drivers suspected of driving while drunk or driving while impaired. Over 250 Indiana state and local law enforcement agencies will be working in a joint effort with the ISP to find and remove both drunk and impaired drivers from Indiana roadways this month.
“I enjoy the month of March, with all the great basketball as well as the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, just as much as any other Hoosier,” said Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter. “But I caution anyone thinking of using this, or any other reason, as an excuse for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” Carter concluded, “Speaking for the state police, nearly all of us, like most of you, have friends and loved ones that will be out on the road driving responsibly. So if we see people who are driving dangerously; know that we will stop them and if they’re impaired, they will be arrested.”
Impaired Driving: It’s Different Than Driving Drunk
However, there’s a third issue involved here that doesn’t get discussed as much as drunk driving or distracted driving — that’s impaired driving, or driving under the influence of drugs of any kind. This third category, drug-related driving, is also tracked by accident researchers.
While “impaired driving” might include driving under the influence of alcohol in some studies, today the term is being used more and more often to distinguish a driver who is behind the wheel after drinking alcoholic beverages and a driver who is driving with any kind of drugs in his system. Any kind.
Impaired driving can include a driver who is using illegal drugs, like marijuana or heroin or cocaine. However, impaired driving can also include driving while under the influence of prescription medications or even over-the-counter remedies picked up at your local grocery store or corner market.
For example, those cold and flu remedies that have the warning “not to use heavy machinery” while taking their product? Those drugs can impair the ability of a driver to drive — and they can cause serious accidents.
Take the popular cold and flu medicine, NyQuil, which has the generic name “acetaminophen / dextromethorphan / doxylamine / pseudoephedrine,” and is sold as NyQuil, as well as Tylenol NightTime Cold & Flu (among other brand names). This drug is known to cause drowsiness as well as dizziness, disorientation, and other dangers to anyone trying to drive a motor vehicle. The packaging includes a warning against “using heavy machinery” while taking the medication.
However, how long the symptoms last and how the drug impacts that particular individual are facts that are unique to the person taking the over-the-counter medicine. Another factor is how much, and how long, that person might be impaired: if they have other physical conditions, and if they are on any other kinds of medications.
NyQuil Crash Examples of Impaired Driving With Over-the-Counter Medicines
Consider these two examples of two school bus drivers who took some NyQuil so they could fight off the flu and do their job, only to get involved in a bus crash:
1. Last month, over in Massachusetts, a school bus driver was arrested and charged for driving under the influence after the school bus he was driving backed into a utility pole, which broke off and fell onto a parked car with its wires falling atop the bus itself. No one was injured (the bus was full of kids on their way home from school), and the bus driver was released on a personal recognizance bond after he was arrested for driving under the influence. He explained that he had felt bad that morning, so he had taken both NyQuil and DayQuil earlier that day to help him feel better and not have to call in sick from work.
2. This case may remind some locals of another school bus driver accident several years ago over in Peoria, where another school bus driver was arrested for driving under the influence after a school bus crash, this time where the bus crashed into two parked cars as the driver was taking a load of school kids home that afternoon. The bus driver insisted that he had not had any alcoholic beverages, that he had felt bad earlier in the day and had drank some NyQuil to help.
Of course, the more serious impaired driving cases are those involving prescription drugs as well as illegal drugs. These impairments can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles or fail to respond appropriately in traffic, and result in very serious traffic accidents and even fatal crashes.