People in the United States have a love affair with their cars. More than the vehicle that gets us from point A to point B, it can represent who we are and the perception we want others to have of us. This is evident everywhere but perhaps most strongly in Southern California. Although there are public transportation options, residents prefer to commute in their personal-statement-on-wheels to be seen and heard (honk). But freeways can be a roadmap to injury when combining workplace stress and fried drivers. And they’re out there – in numbers.
Workplace Addiction Puts the Rush in Rush Hour
Here are some statistics that might make your head spin for a minute. They might even have you searching for a work-from-home job opportunity.
Hours stuck in traffic per year:
- Los Angeles – 81
- Washington – 75
- San Francisco – 75
- Houston – 74
- Seattle 66
According to Inrix Analytics
To break it down even further, on a popular stretch of road in Los Angeles (101 Freeway) people spend 134 hours there per year which equates to 5 ½ days. As much as this isn’t a surprise to some drivers, anyone who commutes to and from work during their city’s rush hour periods can commensurate with the mental anguish suffered. Let me throw another monkey wrench into the typical Monday through Friday drivetime scenario.
1 in 7 U.S. workers will face drug or alcohol addiction.
U.S. Surgeon General, 2017
Americans spend more than 200 hours on the roads per year.
Wasted Time, No Literally, Wasted Time
If you were to take notice of the people around you, stuck in traffic, it’ll tell you a lot about what’s really going on. Drivers are impatient. They get agitated. Stuck behind the wheel with nowhere to go but inch by inch at a snail’s pace. And humans as a whole in today’s society aren’t very adept at coping well. We look for distractions to fill out time, keep our minds from being idle (like in traffic) and seek out ways to shut out the noise of life situations that we just want to go away.
Drugs and alcohol have become an accepted way of coping with stress. As people continue to live in excess, the mantra of more is better is practiced in everything we get our hands on – including medication. It’s putting the rest of us on the roadways at increased risk.
More People on Drugs While Driving
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers that test positive for alcohol since 1973 have dramatically dropped – more than 75 percent.
More than 22% of drivers test positive for 1+ mind-altering drug.
Now, let’s revisit the earlier statistics. That’s a lot of time sharing the roadways with people that have no business being on the road.
Unless you have a remote-work situation with your employer or have a business that allows you to stay at home, there’s no way in getting around this. Unless this scenario is about you, Uber, Lyft or any other transportation service won’t help because it’s about the selfish drivers out there who choose to hit the road under the influence.
This is what they’re driving on:
The above-referenced substances offer the extremes of consciousness. For workers looking to produce more and faster while on the job, they choose stimulants. To come down off the stimulants or to merely decompress from a stressful day and a stressful commute home, many drivers will pop a Xanax or Valium or reach for their one-hitter for a quick inhale and exhale their negativity. In fact, the instances of drugged drivers on marijuana has increased, likely due to the opening of dispensaries and easier access to the cannabis. If you pay attention when you’re stuck in traffic and look around you, chances are you’ll see it in action.
Can Anything Be Done About Drug-Impaired Drivers
Unless there are visible signs of reckless driving (hard to happen during stop-n-go rush hour), drugged driving is difficult to spot until after something happens. Should there be an accident, drivers will usually pull over and discuss (okay shout) the matter. If there’s alcohol involved, it’s easier to notice because there’s often the smell of alcohol that can be detected. Yes, a drunk driver could also stumble his way out of the vehicle but the same can be said of a person under the influence of Xanax, for example.
If law enforcement does come on to the scene of an accident or pull a driver over who is exhibiting unsteady driving (swerving from lane to lane), the driver will have their pupils checked to see if they are dilated. This is a sign of substance-induced impairment.
For those who argue that they have a prescription and the legal right to take the medication, take a look at the pharmacy and drug-manufacturers’ warnings on the label. Depressants will clearly note that it is not safe to take (even in prescribed doses) and operate machinery. Yes, this means a motor vehicle.
New Marijuana Breathalyzers in Development
Various companies in the U.S. and Canada are designing devices specifically to detect marijuana use in drivers. And a Swedish-based device successfully detected a dozen difference substances from the breaths of people who used marijuana, morphine, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and more. If these products hit the commercial market and are put into practice with police and sheriff departments, it might be the one solution to easing traffic, making driving safer during rush hour.
Sober Driving Is Possible with Drug and Alcohol Treatment
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