It is well established that drinking and driving increases accident rates, yet evidence of marijuana’s effects on driving is much less convincing. A study from the National Highway Safety Administration concludes that operating a vehicle after smoking marijuana does not make you more likely to get into a car accident especially when you compare the stats to those who drove after consuming alcohol.
A study was done of 9,000 drivers over the past year to analyze marijuana’s impact on driving. It was found that 25% of cannabis users were more likely to be involved in a vehicle accident than people who did not use the drug. Age, gender, and race of marijuana users were also considered, and the differences in those demographics seemed to contribute heavily to crash risks. In fact, younger drivers and men had a higher accident rate than any other drivers.
On the contrary, drivers who consumed alcohol before operating a vehicle were significantly more likely to crash. Those with a 0.08 percent breath alcohol level crashed four times more than sober drivers, and people with a 0.15 percent level were 12 times more likely to crash.
It should be noted that someone testing positive for marijuana was determined as having delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinal, otherwise known as THC, in the system, but was determined that the number of legal drug users and illegal drug users involved in car crashes was statistically irrelevant.
Overall, marijuana intoxication has been shown to impair a driver’s senses, and the number of drivers with cannabis in their system is gradually increasing. This controlled study measures the risks associated with marijuana at the level found among drivers in a demographic community. By using driving simulators and test tracks, researchers have found that marijuana at sufficient dosage levels will impact a driver’s risk to crash. Jeff Michael, director of the Office of Impaired Driving and Occupant Protection states:
“Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness. These fingerings highlight the importance of research to better understand how marijuana use affects drivers so states and communities can craft the best safety policies.”
Media reports and advocates who are against legalizing pot have amped up the idea that “drugged driving” would unleash mayhem on the roads now that states are starting to legalize marijuana. In fact, highway fatalities in Colorado are at an all time low since legalizing pot. Additional research on the effects of marijuana is invaluable to state lawmakers who are still figuring out the logistics of legalization.
Nevertheless, the NHTSA findings are good news for cannabis fans. In the Centennial State, recreational use became legal on January 1, 2014, and marijuana users are even allowed to grow their own plants (with cautious restrictions).
Looks like cannabis users will be happy with these findings.