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Drexel Study: Are You Really OK to Drive Right Now?

Driving Photo
(Photo credit: Tony Webster / flickr)

While anyone who has taken a high school health class knows the perils associated with drinking and driving, other factors that contribute to motor vehicle accidents — like marijuana, fatigue and texting — are more easily overlooked.

The increased risk of driving errors due to physiological impairments or distractions is a growing public health concern, says a new paper from Drexel University researchers.

“There has been such a good job getting the message across about the dangers of drinking and driving that it has actually gone down. At the same time, driving and drug use has gone up,” said lead author David Vearrier, MD, an assistant professor in the College of Medicine and emergency medicine physician. “Maybe we are missing the boat on informing patients that driving while using drugs can be just as dangerous.”

The paper, published in this month’s issue of “Disease-a-Month” and designed primarily as a guide for primary care physicians, is one of the largest and most comprehensive reviews of driving impairment to date. Vearrier and his colleagues analyzed nearly 300 peer-reviewed articles and other documents to determine the scope of the problem.

Some highlights:

Some of the paper’s conclusions might seem like a no-brainer. But Vearrier said he was surprised by the number of studies showing how many people do not realize they are impaired while on the road.

With a number of states decriminalizing medical and recreational marijuana, for example, he worries that too many drivers believe they are OK to drive when they are high.

“The big takeaway is that driving is a very complex task, and it requires a lot of complex human behaviors and abilities,” Vearrier said. “There are so many different skills that go into it, and all types of behaviors that can derail our ability to prevent crashes.”

For media inquiries, contact Lauren Ingeno: lingeno@drexel.edu or 215-895-2614.

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