James Dean was 24 in 1955 when his Porsche 550 Spyder crashed, killing him. He didn’t need to be distracted by a cellphone to have a fatal accident, but today many drivers his age (and younger) are adding digital distraction to the hazards of speeding and drinking (or smoking pot) while driving: 31 percent of American drivers admit that in the past 30 days they’ve texted while driving.
According to distraction.gov (the U.S. government’s website about distracted driving), 20-somethings make up 27 percent of distracted drivers in fatal crashes, and kids younger than 20 are, proportionately, most likely to be risking their lives -- and others’ -- with distracted driving. But what about older drivers?
According to one study, “the typical older driver is a medication-taker.” And many medications, such as sleeping pills, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, narcotic pain meds and even some over-the-counter antihistamines, antidiarrhea meds or motion sickness pills can interfere with driving safety.
By themselves, cellphone usage or med-taking while driving is risky. But when digital distraction merges with medication-taking, watch out!
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Unfortunately, that day is here (long before Google’s driverless cars become commonplace). So what can you do? Contact your elected officials to demand strict penalties for distracted and medicated driving and to ask for a more-aggressive public-health campaign: a crash course in not crashing. Talk to your teens and/or elderly parents about the risks, and don’t dodge the issues yourself. One study found that almost 100 percent of middle-age drivers who texted were guilty of drifting into the oncoming lane!
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.