Doctors, law enforcement warn about “drugged driving” dangers

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GREENVILLE, NC (WNCT) – Local doctors and law enforcement officers are working to educate more drivers about the dangers of drugged driving.

Driving while impaired can occur from alcohol or drugs. “It’s any drug or anything you take into your body that impairs your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely,” said Greenville Traffic Safety Officer Pat O’Callaghan.

Officer O’Callaghan has charged many people with DWI. Some weren’t drunk – but instead impaired by medication. “They would be swerving, wide turns, driving the wrong way almost head on into traffic, things like that.”

Dr. Brian McMillen of the Brody School of Medicine said operating a vehicle while on certain medications creates a dangerous situation.

“The greater the number of divisions and complexity of the task, the greater the effect of any impairing type substance,” said Dr. McMillen. “You have to pay attention to the road ahead, what’s behind you, you gotta control the wheel, you gotta pay attention to your speed, you have to control the pedals. There’s several things that you have to be doing simultaneously.”

Some prescriptions, and even over the counter medications, can create a drowsy driver.

“There’s sneaky things like Benadryl. It’s effects are to make you drowsy, and it boosts the effects of narcotics,” said Dr. McMillen.

Taking a drug before driving doesn’t just have dangerous consequences.

“The penalties for court if you’re found guilty – exactly the same between drug impairment or alcohol impairment. There’s no difference whatsoever in North Carolina,” said Officer O’Callaghan.

Before getting behind the wheel, read the medication label and consult with your doctor. If you’re taking a new prescription, doctors warn you should never drive until you know how your body reacts to the medication.

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