PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – This is going to be the busiest travel weekend of the year, and today is one of the busiest days on the highways.
Law enforcement in Pennsylvania says there are more people arrested for driving under the influence of drugs than for drinking and driving — and by a wide margin.
Roughly 65 percent of the DUI arrests in Pennsylvania are for driving under the influence of drugs, which is nearly twice as many as drinking and driving.
Pam Wahal with Allegheny County Pre-Trial Services says it is pretty simply:
“They have to take into consideration what they are putting into their bodies and what it can to their driving.”
Wahal was one of several people at Asti’s Pharmacy in the South Hills Thursday. PennDOT, AAA and Pre-Trial Services want to send a very loud message about driving if you are taking any kind of medicine.
“The medication with the most significant risk are behind the counter,” says Chris Antypas, a pharmacist and co-owner of Asti’s Pharmacy. “But so many people are on one or more prescription medications these days. It’s just very, very common.”
The big issue is that as the American population gets older, there are many people who are taking a lot of different drugs.
Jim Garrity of AAA East Central says many of those people also will be behind the wheel this weekend.
“You may be taking seven, eight, nine medications, and you don’t have any — you may not be a pharmacist and have any idea what they are doing to each other. So yeah, you have to ask,” Garrity said.
PennDOT also wants to make sure that people think and don’t end up involved in a wreck.
“There are so many other alternatives to driving impaired,” says Yasmeen Manyisha Safety Press Officer for PennDOT, District 11. “It is 100 percent preventable and there is absolutely no excuse to be behind the wheel impaired.”
Even if you are just taking an over-the-counter medication for a cold or for the flu, pharmacist Samantha Pitzarella suggests giving it a day before you drive.
“You can kind of feel a brain fog, a little bit of dizziness, just kind of a heaviness kind of sedation kind of feel — so definitely important to not take it those first few times with alcohol until you see how it affects you,” she said.
If you are not exactly sure about what it is that you are taking and whether it is going to be a problem, take the time to ask.
Your pharmacist, or your doctor would be happy to take a look at those medications and whether they will hinder your ability to drive safely.