Marijuana and Driving on the Rise

When the term “driving under the influence” is heard, the first thing that usually comes to mind is alcohol intoxication. But alcohol is only one of the countless substances that can impair an individual’s ability to drive. Driving under the influence of drugs, including prescription medications and illegal substance can cause severe consequences.

Drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired put themselves and others on the road at risk. Since marijuana is the second most commonly used drug associated with drinking and drugged driving after alcohol, it is important to understand why it is particularly dangerous.

THC, the high producing element in marijuana, affects areas of the brain that control body movements, balance, coordination, memory and judgment. Evidence from both real and simulated driving studies indicate that marijuana negatively affects a driver’s attentiveness, perception of time and speed, and ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences.

Cannabinol, a remnant of marijuana, was found in 12 percent of those drivers during 2016, (up from 5.4 percent in 2010). Pot was the most common non-alcoholic drug detected by screenings. Research also shows that impairment increases significantly when marijuana use is combined with alcohol. Studies have found that many drivers test positive for alcohol and THC, making it clear that drinking and drugged driving are often linked behaviors.

“If the current trends continue, non-alcohol drugs, such as marijuana, will overtake alcohol in traffic fatalities around 2020.”

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