Driving under the influence of drugs: Perceptions and attitudes of New Zealand drivers

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Publication date: September 2017
Source:Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 106
Author(s): Neha Malhotra, Nicola J. Starkey, Samuel G. Charlton
This study explored the patterns of drug driving in New Zealand by investigating 1) drivers’ perceptions about impairment caused by legal and illegal drugs 2) countermeasures employed by drivers when under the influence of drugs (e.g., decisions not to drive) 3) drivers’ attitudes about police enforcement of drug driving and 4) the factors that predict the likelihood of engaging in drug driving. Participants (n=434) were licensed drivers who completed an online questionnaire. Results of the questionnaire indicated that drivers rated hallucinogens and opiates as being the illegal drugs producing the highest level of driving impairment and cannabis the lowest. For legal drugs, sedatives were rated as having the highest driving impairment and anti-nausea and anti-depressants the lowest. Respondents’ drug use history had an effect on their ratings of impairment for anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants, kava, sedatives, cannabis and hallucinogens such that drug users reported higher impairment ratings than Non-user. Making a decision not to drive after taking drugs was reported by users of alcohol (73.6%), cannabis (57.0%), strong painkillers (42.5%), and anti-depressants (10.0%). Respondents who reported drink driving were 3.26 times more likely to report drug driving than those reporting no drink driving. Respondents also showed greater acceptance towards driving under the influence of legal drugs (43.5%) compared to illegal drugs (10.3%). Those who did not have favourable attitudes about drug driving were less likely to report having driven under the influence of drugs. Drivers in this sample were less aware of the potential negative effects of legal drugs on driving compared to illegal drugs. More than half the respondents from this study acknowledged drug driving as a road safety issue which needs more resources dedicated to it.

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