Driving under the Influence of Marijuana


More than 10 million people reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs in 2012, Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports. This figure, coupled with the fact that 2 in 3 people will be involved in a car crash related to drunk driving in their lifetime, is one of the main reasons legislation across the states is honing in on promoting sober driving. While typically drunk driving has been the cause of fatalities, marijuana use has now become legal in some states, making the risk of impaired driving higher, as alcohol alone is not the sole culprit of abuse.

As concerned citizens, it is important to be aware of the facts so when the time comes for your teen to drive, you know what you’re up against. Read on for facts on how marijuana use can affect driving and what our government is doing to protect our roads from reckless drivers:

The Effects of Marijuana Use on Driving

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use impairs judgement and reduces motor control and coordination, all of which are necessary to avoid car accidents. Marijuana’s active component, THC leaves users feeling euphoric,or high, by releasing dopamine in the brain. As the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration identifies, typical marijuana smokers experience this euphoric sensation for a duration of approximately 2 hours.

However, psychomotor impairment continues for longer periods of time, even after the perceived high has diminished. Ultimately, you might believe you are no longer under the influence of marijuana, when in fact, your body is still impaired. The best and safest choice is to never mix drugs with driving, even if you no longer “feel” high, as impairment lends itself to distorted perceptions. While alarming, you can continue researching proactive safety measures to better prepare yourself, your teen, and family for the road. Knowing the facts is always an excellent preventative measure.

Impaired Driving Legislation

Marijuana has recently been legalized in some states, and there is an increased interest in collecting information on the effects of marijuana use on driving. The University of Iowa has partnered with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration in to create the National Advanced Driving Simulator, a behemoth, state of the art machine to testing every imaginable driving scenario. As the National Institute of Health reports, this simulator is currently being used to test various levels of impaired driving, specifically driving while high on marijuana to see how much is too much for the safety of others. Results are forthcoming this summer but should illuminate levels of toxicity that can be dangerous on the road. Other studies of this kind include a more in depth look at how cannabis can appear in saliva, and if measurable amounts can be ascertained from these samples.

As we look towards the future, heavier regulation may be under way. However, until such legislation hits our roadways, the best policy is to teach your children to be drug free to avoid even the slightest risk of injury. The evidence against marijuana use while driving lies primarily in what marijuana use does to our brains. Education in any form is the key. In addition to teaching your kids the damage drugs can do, also make sure they are ready to drive with practice tests and on-road experience.

Any drug is capable of impairing our judgement and when in doubt, it is the safest policy to avoid driving to keep ourselves and others safe.

Author: TSC Guest

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