Driving impaired covers more than you may think

Check with your doctor or medical professional to see if your medication will not affect your driving

Impairment: the state of being diminished, weakened, or damaged, especially mentally or physically.

This definition may look unusual for many because we are conditioned to think you have to be drunk or stoned to be impaired.

Here is a list of what is included under the understanding of impairment.

Tired or fatigued, lack of sleep, distraction, emotionally upset, stressed, anxious or nervous, depressed, in pain, affected by any substance, be it alcohol, illicit drugs, medicine, prescribed medication, over the counter medicine, natural remedies, etc. The list goes on for anything that may affect your reaction time or decision making abilities.

We may only think that impairment means being affected by one of these substances at a time. Taking a combination of small portions which on its own may not affect you, may push into impairment.

The physical and psychological demand needed to operate a vehicle safely on the road and to be able to identify potential hazards other road users may pose could be seen as a scale. This could be listed on a scale of 0% to 100% where at 100% a driver would be fully alert and unimpaired. The lower the level, the higher the risk of an incident. The faster the operating speed, the higher the risk for serious or fatal injury crash. This is just basic physics.

There are many incidents that happen as a result of impaired drivers – see attached crash map. This map only reflects reported crashes where impairment was a factor in the crash. As you will notice, there were many single vehicle crashes.

So the busier the road, the higher the potential for conflict with other moving objects. However, when the environment becomes less demanding, like traveling on a long straight road with no other traffic, the risk increases that the driver will relax and become distracted.

Studies show that we are more at risk within five kilometres from home or office after a long trip. That is because we relax when we enter familiar territory. Other studies show that drivers make tens of thousands of decisions an hour – some cognitively but mostly subconsciously.

Learn how to notice the affect things may have on you and avoid driving until you are completely unimpaired.  

Daniel Naudé