Drugged Driving


On any day, at any time, the person driving in the next lane could be impaired. Increasingly, Nebraska’s health care, safety and law enforcement experts point to a dangerous new trend -- driving impaired from illegal drugs, pills or even common prescription medicines. The threat is the greatest during the evening hours on weekends when as many as one in four drivers could be impaired, according to studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NET’s newest documentary “Drugged Driving” addresses this new and dangerous trend and what is being done to improve safety. It explores how medications can impair vision and balance, cause drowsiness or even render a driver unconscious.

“I had taken a whole bunch of Xanax that night. For some reason, I realized that I was on the wrong side of the road. And I looked up and there was cars coming at me,” said one of the impaired drivers interviewed for this program.

Two recovering addicts share their personal stories of driving while impaired, along with former Husker football athlete Ricky Simmons who served prison time on illegal drug charges before becoming a certified drug counselor.

“Drugged Driving” also looks at research being conducted at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Mind and Brain Health Labs. The lab uses car simulations and real-time driving data studies to learn how brain activity affects real-world behavior. University researchers are examining connections between personal medical needs, reasoning and reactions.

As Colorado is the first state to legalize marijuana, it’s at the forefront of the challenges presented by drugged driving. In the NET documentary, Loveland Police Chief Robert Ticer discusses the increase of driving arrests related to cannabis and describes new roadside training he has implemented. Since there are no national standards for marijuana impairment, more law enforcement officers are learning advanced roadside sobriety procedures. According to Chris Halsor, director of Understanding Legal Marijuana in Golden, some training involves citizen volunteers who participate in “Green Labs.” This training lab enables participants to consume marijuana and then allows officers to try to identify the source and severity of the impairment as they role play a roadside test without driving.

“Drugged Driving” also covers the emerging national priority for educators and law enforcement to find solutions. For example, national experts on impaired driving and drowsy driving were featured at The Nebraska Highway Safety Conference, held earlier this year.