Driving High? Study Shows Marijuana Doubles Crash Risk

When you smoke marijuana within three hours of driving, your risk of getting into a car accident doubles. In an analysis of marijuana studies, researchers found this startling fact, which may make you think twice before lighting up and getting behind the wheel.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal recreational drug in the world, and its use is increasing among drivers. For instance, a recent study in Scotland revealed that around one in six young adult drivers used marijuana in the 12 hours before driving.

Researchers at Dalhousie University in Canada conducted an extensive analysis of nine studies involving almost 50,000 people who had been in car crashes. The results showed that collisions, particularly fatal ones, were twice as likely among drivers who had smoked marijuana within the previous three hours. These findings were published in the prestigious British Medical Journal.

Dangers of Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence of marijuana can impair essential cognitive functions, such as attention, concentration, decision-making, and reaction time. In addition, the drug can affect psychomotor skills (coordination of movements), leading to impaired control of the vehicle.

In a study published in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, researchers examined the effects of marijuana on driving performance. Participants were asked to complete various driving tasks after smoking marijuana. The study found that the participants who were under the influence of marijuana exhibited slower reaction times and had difficulty maintaining a consistent speed and following distance from the vehicle in front of them.

These findings illuminate the risks of driving after using marijuana. The negative impacts on cognitive functions and psychomotor skills can put the driver, passengers, and other road users at serious risk.

Comparing Marijuana with Alcohol and Other Drugs

Trying to assess the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana against those of other substances proves difficult. Different drugs can have different effects on individuals, and the combinations of substances can further complicate the evaluation. Some studies have found that the impact of marijuana use on driving is less severe than the effects of alcohol, while others conclude that the risks are roughly comparable between the two substances.

In a large-scale study conducted in the United States, researchers analyzed data from more than 14,000 fatal car crashes involving multiple substances, including marijuana and alcohol. They found that drivers under the influence of marijuana were nearly twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash compared to sober drivers. However, drivers under the influence of alcohol were more than 12 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

These data show that while alcohol has more severe consequences for driving, marijuana use still significantly increases the risk of a car accident.

Legal Considerations

In countries and states that have legalized recreational marijuana use, there is a growing concern about the implications of drugged driving. Law enforcement faces challenges in detecting and quantifying drivers’ impairment levels due to marijuana because there is no reliable roadside test equivalent to a breathalyzer for alcohol.

For instance, in the United States, per se laws have been enacted in some states, which makes it illegal to have a blood THC concentration above a certain level while driving. However, the relationship between THC concentration and driving impairment is complex, and it remains unclear what an appropriate legal limit should be.

Conclusion: The Risks Outweigh the High

Smoking marijuana within three hours of operating a vehicle can have severe consequences. The risks associated with impaired cognitive functions and psychomotor skills are too high, and the dangers of accidents and fatalities should not be overlooked.

Comparatively, while alcohol may cause more severe impairment, marijuana use is still a serious risk factor. And as countries and states continue to grapple with the implications of marijuana legalization, including drugged-driving concerns, it is crucial to prioritize road safety, education, and enforcement measures.

In summary, if you’re considering smoking marijuana, be sure to wait until sufficient time has passed before you decide to drive. Remember that the risks of driving under the influence far outweigh the high and can result in harm to yourself, your passengers, and other road users.