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Coloradans Take Note: AAA Online Drugs & Driving Tool Omits Marijuana

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Roadwise RXThe AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AFTS) has developed a free online tool to help motorists understand how medications can affect their ability to drive safely. Called Roadwise RX, it was developed primarily for seniors, but it can be helpful to drivers of all ages, Linda Gorman writes for Ahwatukee Foothills News.

Perhaps AFTS will expand the scope of the tool to include marijuana, which is approved in 18 states (including Colorado) and the District of Columbia for medical use, and which Colorado and Washington State voters approved last week for recreational use.

Writing for KARK 4 News before the Nov. 6 election, Marci Manley quoted Colorado North Metro Task Force Sergeant Jim Gerhardt, who said Colorado (which approved medical marijuana in the year 2000 according to ProCon.org), is making more arrests for mariujana-related crimes than it did five years ago. In the article, appearing on ArkansasMatters.com, Manley writes:

According to Gerhardt, having marijuana on hand is making the streets less safe.

‘Daily we’re seeing incidents where people are driving under the influence of marijuana getting into serious accidents, even causing fatalities,’ he says.

According to NORML, in Colorado, a person is guilty of a DUI if he or she operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or one or more drugs, or as a habitual user of any controlled substance.

AFTS’s Roadwise RX is designed to allow people to record their prescription and over-the-counter medications in one central location and get personal feedback about ways that drug side effects and interactions between medications can impact driving safety. Combinations of medicines can intensify their side effects, AFTS notes. “There may be ways to minimize effects of some medicines on driving, such as taking a medicine at night instead of in the morning — but always check with your doctor before stopping or changing the times you take a medication,” AFTS advises.

The tool invites people to list not only medications but also herbal supplements. For example, when Vitamin D3 is listed, the following are some of the driver warnings that appear:

Trouble staying alert or awake may result in…

  • Challenges staying within the lane markings and increased risk of leaving the roadway. When drivers are unable to remain in their lane, it increases their likelihood of hitting another vehicle, traveling into oncoming traffic, or driving off the side of the road.
  • Delayed reactions to on- and off-road events (e.g., taking a longer time to apply the brakes if another vehicle stops suddenly or more slowly swerving to avoid an unexpected item in the road). Slower reactions make a driver more vulnerable to obstacles in the roadway.
  • Lower levels of vigilance and awareness about road conditions and other vehicles (e.g., not seeing curves or potholes ahead, miscalculating another driver’s speed, or misjudging the slickness of the road surface). In this condition, drivers are less likely to adapt their driving to their environment.
  • Difficulty recalling the intended destination. Drivers may become confused or disoriented, often changing their driving behavior to adapt.
  • Loss of consciousness at the wheel. Drivers are unable to operate the vehicle in this condition.

Gorman writes that a recent AAA survey of drivers 65 and over found that 80% take medications, but only half of those have spoken to a medical professional about safety issues related to driving. The survey found that certain antidepressants increase accident risk by up to 41%, Gorman writes. “Ingredients such as diphenhydramine, commonly found in over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines, can have the same effect on driving as being above the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration,” Gorman adds.

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