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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Driver shortcomings are varied

The driving populace includes all types:  experienced, novice, attentive, oblivious, defensive, aggressive, and impaired.  The latter category, in its many forms, commands plenty attention from law enforcement.  Washington State Patrol emphasis patrols employ statewide strategies where local and state police agencies work together in specific locations where infractions and impaired driving are prevalent.

Impairment goes beyond well beyond alcohol abuse.  Alcohol-related arrests are plentiful, but possibly because they are the easiest to identify, cite and prosecute.  But there are countless ways for drivers to attain physical and mental unfitness.  A police officer once told me of an arrest and subsequent prosecution involving a driver under the influence of prescribed medications.  When taking any powerful or new meds, evaluate their effects before getting behind the wheel.

An impaired mind can also arise from stress, anger and attitude.  I have personally encountered drivers evidently influenced by all of those, besides displaying an ignorance of road rules.  These encounters remind me of the importance of driving defensively and watching out for the unexpected actions of others. 

I have seen drivers outraged over things that make little sense.  For example, I had a merging freeway driver chase me down and give me the single-finger salute for — as close as I can discern by the dirty look he gave when he tried to merge — not moving over to let him in on the freeway.  But, you see, there was traffic to my left as I passed the merger.  I could not move over and would have had to brake significantly to let him in.  All he had to reasonably do was adjust his merge speed to come to the freeway behind me instead of beside me. Besides poor judgement of speed and distance, he was evidently unaware that it is up to the merger to yield to the vehicles already upon the freeway.

While such misplaced anger is hard to understand, it’s not that hard to believe given the antics I have witnessed over many years of driving.  We never know how someone may misinterpret the law or which minor incident may incite road rage.

Intoxication, distraction, impatience, and drowsiness — they are all forms of impaired driving.  As previously noted, medications often contribute to these inadequacies.  Polypharmacy is a term meaning “many drugs,” and refers to the adverse effects of drug overdose, interaction, and side-effects.  Because they take more medications than younger drivers, older drivers are prone to this potential impairment.

If you mix prescription drugs with over-the-counter drugs, you could suffer ill effects of the drugs’ combination.  If you take multiple meds, be sure to okay their compatibility with your pharmacist or physician.  And alcohol is bad enough — mixing it with other drugs is disastrous for driving.

Some people may take their prescription drugs, for example, in tandem with antacids, pain killers, or laxatives with no bad consequences, but others may have problems from ingesting the mix.  Just because a drug is available over-the-counter doesn’t mean it is safe for you to take while driving, especially in combination with other drugs.  Popular herbs may even interact with medicines you are taking.  Herbs are not regulated in the same way as prescription medications, so strength and quality are difficult to determine.

Remember — you may be sober and alert, but you are sharing the road with drivers various mental and physical states — some that are not drive-worthy.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at precisiondriving@spokesman.com.