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DRIVING AND MARIJUANA: A DANGEROUS MIX

 

DRIVING WHILE HIGH is a growing problem in the
U.S. Estimates show that a third of impaired driving
incidents can be traced to marijuana, while many more
involve a combination of multiple substances.


In Colorado, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased
by 48 percent after the state legalized recreational use of
the drug. (1) In Washington State, 18.6% of all DUI cases
in the state tested for drugs were positive for THC; from
January through April, 2015, 33% were positive for THC.


(The number of fatally injured drivers positive for
marijuana in the state more than doubled following
marijuana legalization, reaching 17% in 2014.


Even as Colorado’s population has increased, fatal
crashes in CO related to alcohol-impaired drivers have
fallen during the era of recreational pot legalization, from
160 in 2011 to 143 in 2015 (crashes where Blood Alcohol
Content, BAC, was greater than or equal to 0.08 percent),
an 11 percent drop over four years. At the same time,
traffic fatalities overall have risen, from 447 in 2011 to 608
in 2016, a 26 percent rise over five years, as drivers testing
positive for marijuana use have risen sharply.


AAA has released guidelines on impaired driving that are
important to remember. First, there is no science showing
that drivers reliably become impaired after ingesting a
specific amount of marijuana. This is very different from
alcohol, and we could never count on a 0.08 BAC level
equivalent for marijuana. Second, research has not been
able to reliably measure impairment based on THC levels.


THC blood levels fall so rapidly that such measured
levels are vastly lower than when the impaired driving
occurred due to the long delay in testing. But the effect on
driving persists beyond the feeling of being high.

One groundbreaking study found that that chronic
marijuana use can impair a person’s ability to drive for
up to three weeks after stopping marijuana use.


Other research has noted non-chronic users who
smoke one or two marijuana joints are likely to test
positive for marijuana at standard cut – off levels for
only 2 – 3 days, with many testing negative 24
hours after smoking marijuana. After three to five
days, such users almost always test negative.


Furthermore, marijuana-impaired driving is likely an
underreported problem, since many drivers high on

marijuana are also using alcohol.  Since there is an
established standard for drunk driving, the criminal
justice system often stops at a lab test showing greater
than 0.08 BAC levels.

 

DRIVING WHILE HIGH is an unappreciated
problem, compounded by a growing industry intent on
protecting their brand and image. A recent Liberty
Mutual survey found that a third of students said
driving under the influence of marijuana is legal in
states where it is recreational. More than 20% of teens
reported it’s common among their friends. Parent
perceptions were similar: 27% said it’s legal and 14%
said it’s common among friends.  A public
education campaign on the dangers of driving while
high is vital.

 

Source:  http://www.learnaboutsam.org