Driving Under the Influence of Khat: From the Perspective of Ethiopians
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Abstract Background: In Ethiopia, chewing khat is legal and driving while chewing is normal. Although drugged driving is implicitly illegal in the country, it does not appear that this law includes khat. It has been suggested that the government's lax policy towards khat may be due to the fact that khat has become the major cash crop and foreign currency generator and from the assumption/ fear that taking any action against it may cause social uproar which will make it harder to implement policies that would be adhered by the public- the assumption being most people in Ethiopia are not concerned about the dangers of driving under the influence of khat. This survey, therefore, was conducted to investigate the awareness and magnitude of concern by Ethiopians about the dangers of driving under the influence of khat. Methodology: A cross sectional study was conducted in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. A total of 406 participants were recruited using convenience sampling method. Data were collected through survey using close ended questionnaire. Univariate logistic regression methods was used to assess association between variables. Result: 46% of respondents considered khat to be drug; 48% indicated that they would feel safe traveling with a driver who was chewing khat; however, 62% indicate that chewing khat while driving should be a punishable offense. There were no differences in responses by religion, means of transportation (private vs. public) or by whether people had children or not. There were differences based on gender and age. Over all, men were more likely to think that khat is not drug than women (OR =2.71 95%CI =1.82-4.06; p=0.0017). Younger men (18-31 years of age) were more likely to think that khat is drug than older people (OR = 1.96 95% CI = 1.25-3.04; p=.02). Men more than women and specifically young men (18-31) were more likely to feel safer riding with or traveling along someone driving while chewing khat (OR = 2.70 95%CI = 1.69-4.00; p = <.0001) and (OR=3.84 95%CI =2.44-5.9; p < .000) respectively. Women were more likely to think driving while chewing khat should be punishable comparing to men (OR= 1.60 95% CI= 1.08-2.4; p = .02). Those >31 (regardless of gender) were more likely to think driving while chewing khat should be punishable by law (OR=3.17 95%C=2.06-5.00; p =.0001). There was no difference in responses by major category of occupation. But, noticeable difference was noted among people of other occupations and the sub group of taxi and long distance truck drivers. As such, taxi and truck drivers were found to be less likely to think khat is drug (OR=13.51 95%CI=1.72-17.19;p=014),and more likely to feel safer around other drivers who drive while chewing(OR=3.57 95% CI=1.21-10.00;p=.021)and more likely to think driving while chewing khat should not be punishable by law(OR=6.4 95%CI=2.26-18.00;p=0005) Conclusion: This survey has the limitation of being based on a convenience sample. However, it nonetheless allows us to draw several reasonable conclusions. Awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence of khat is strong among the general public but weak among the younger, especially men (18-31) and those who drive for living i.e. taxi and long-distance truck drivers. Therefore, government needs to design strategies that would increase awareness among these groups and enforce laws that would prohibit chewing and driving without fearing any negative repercussions.
- Global health