Some Real Stats on Marijuana and Driving

Summary and opinion by Wendy Anderson.

With the increased level of scrutiny Cannabis has been getting in every area we have to remember to stay neutral and look at facts. Always look at facts because in the end the numbers don’t lie. I will be the first one to tell everyone reading anything on the internet to do their research because there are so many biased articles out there with the main goal of of only persuading the reader to think like writer. Manipulation. So I will tell you right away readers, this article especially is for information. I want simply to help put information out there to help enlighten. I do not in any way condone driving under the influence of anything and I hope that all of you out there are trying to be more responsible and thinking of not only your safety, but the safety of the children, women, and men whose lives you are putting in danger by driving under the influence. That being said, let’s get to the information!

We see evidence of of the impact of alcohol related accidents everyday, and know from study after study of just how reckless alcohol is when someone drives intoxicated. However, it’s not as cut and dry when it comes to figuring out accidents where cannabis is involved. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration. For example, was there also alcohol, which can increase the likelihood of weaving outside the lines. The University of Iowa did a study where they had subjects drive a simulation under the influence of just alcohol, alcohol and cannabis mixed, and just cannabis vaped. They found that the groups with alcohol in their systems “showed impairment in all three sections” while the group with only the vaped cannabis showed some weaving in their single lane.

There have been other simulator studies done which have brought similar conclusions. One report, written in 2000 calledThe influence of cannabis on driving: A report prepared for the UK Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Road Safety Division)”  showed noticeable effects of cannabis on psychomotor skills such as tracking ability. The tests did show however, that the higher cognitive functions, like those needed for driving, were not as discerning. Unlike alcohol which does affect higher cognitive functions and psychomotor skills. Another study, the DRUID study (Driving under the influence of Drugs, Alcohol and Medicines) states that the highest risks for crashes were for accidents with drivers with BAC of .12 or above. The crash risk for those drivers was 20-200 times that of sober drivers and those with BAC of .08 -.12 were 5 to 30 times more likely to crash.

While the drivers who tested positive for THC in this study were still at an elevated risk comparatively the numbers came to 1-3 times that of sober drivers, which they equalled out to be around the same as BAC levels of .01- less than .05. This was a  large study conducted over nine European countries in 2010. Not only is the study the most extensive type, but it is also rather recent compared to much of the other studies done in this area.

It’s interesting  to see that no matter what study you are looking at whether it is from 1988,1998, 2000, or 2010 the information is showing to be very consistent. The numbers show that while there is an elevated risk for accidents while under the influence of Cannabis, it is much lower than the numbers of being under the influence of alcohol.

Also please take these notes into consideration from some of these studies. The drivers that were studied that were under the influence of Cannabis were more aware of their surroundings, senses heightened, which made them want to be more cautious and drive slower and typically leave more between traffic. While the people under the influence of alcohol were over confident, less aware of their surroundings, and much less in control of their actions.

It’s definitely always better to have a designated driver if you are going to partake in anything. What I’d like the readers to take away from this is that according to the numbers we’ve been seeing legalizing Cannabis will not cause any mass amounts of traffic accidents. So please just do your research before letting the fear mongers sway your opinions on the matter.

Marijuana and Driving: A Review of the Scientific Evidence; NORML website.  Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk; U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Richard P. Compton and Amy Berning. 

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