Driving While Stoned
By Mark Wunder | September 10, 2013 03:58:46 AM PDTThere remains much debate over the issue of how much driving while stoned really affects your driving ability. As I’m sure we’re all aware, Colorado recently had a big debate over this very issue and even implemented laws which put even more restraints on medical marijuana patients. No one who is fairly educated on the matter will argue that ingesting marijuana causes decreased motor skills, reduced reaction time and attention to tasks. With these facts in mind, it’s only logical to reason that someone who is stoned is probably a worse driver than someone who is sober and normally around the same driving ability and experience. However, it can also be argued that unlike alcohol, those who drive while stoned are much more aware of their inebriation AND are able to adjust their driving to be safer based on that. Many cannabis users - myself included - actually drive slower than they normally would when they’re medicated. Many are just more cautious in general. This doesn’t discount the fact that the reaction time and motor skills are definitely affected though. Additionally, over 90% of all car accidents involving marijuana also involved excessively high - no pun intended - levels of intoxication. In other words, generally speaking, if you smoke a bowl or two and then run to the store, you’re probably not going to get in an accident. However if you burn a blunt to the dome and then roast a few domers in your 4-foot bong and drive to the store, you may in fact get in an accident. Dr. R. Andrew Sewell published a report on this very matter in 2010, titled “Is It Safe to Drive While Stoned? Cannabis and Driving.” In his report, he concludes first off, that it is fairly difficult to determine exactly how intoxicated from marijuana a person is without blood tests. On the spot, it’s nearly impossible to tell exactly how high they may be. He also concludes that as many as 80% of college-age kids and younger have driven while high on marijuana. In his report, Dr. Sewell raises 4 questions that will help answer this rather tricky question of whether driving while stoned is safe: 1) Does cannabis affect the brain circuitry you need to safely drive? 2) Does cannabis use impair performance on driving tests? 3) When two cars crash, is the person responsible for the crash more likely to be under the influence of cannabis? 4) Do cannabis smokers die in car crashes more often than non-cannabis smokers? To answer the first question of whether or not using cannabis affects the brain circuitry you need to drive safely and normally, Dr. Sewell composed and analyzed results from 60 previous studies and surveys on the matter. What he soon was able to conclude was that cannabis does indeed affect the brain in nearly every way that is related to safe and responsible driving. Cannabis use affects depth perception, time perception, attention span, awareness and thought-processing. So, yes it definitely affects the brain circuitry you need to drive as safe as possible. That cannot be argued. By contrast, Sewell concluded that drivers who take driving tests while stoned are almost completely unaffected in their driving performance. As puzzling as this seems at first, the answer may lie in something mentioned earlier in this article. Especially when driving with an instructor for a driving test or something of the sort, drivers who are stoned tend to think they are more inebriated than they actually are and in turn, compensate by driving almost completely normally. This is true nearly 100% of the time, unless alcohol is involved, in which case their driving performance is almost always negatively affected. This is because, unlike stoned drivers, drunk and/or stoned drivers tend to think they’re less drunk than they really are and in turn allow their inebriated mind cause them to drive inadequately. To answer the third question of whether the person responsible for a crash is more likely to be high on marijuana, Dr. Sewell looked at a ten-year study conducted in Australia by numerous doctors and scientists collaborating. What they concluded was that the person responsible is almost never more likely than the person not responsible to be inebriated by cannabis. This is quite astonishing as well, but they also determined not only that, but also that the person who is inebriated by marijuana is actually (in terms of probability) less likely to be the one responsible for the crash. It’s unknown why this is so, but the fact remains that they are actually less likely. Finally, the last question of whether or not cannabis users die more frequently in car crashes than non-cannabis users, is rather difficult to answer completely, as the results from various studies vary greatly. In one study conducted in the Netherlands, results showed that there was no meaningful statistics going either way. However, in another study conducted in Northern California, it was concluded that drivers who are high have a 2.3% chance of getting in a fatal car crash - a shockingly high number. However, this also doesn’t factor in the fact that California drivers are some of the most notoriously bad drivers around and are dangerous whether they’re stoned or not. So, is driving while stoned safe or unsafe? You have the information here, so decide for yourselves.
CannaConnoisseur | Nov 13, 2011
I know for a fact that I slow down considerably and am actually more aware while driving high, so long as I'm not ridiculously medicated.
lindzzz | Nov 22, 2011
We have all done it sometime or another. I try to be more cautious, and not smoke while driving on long road trips. Sometimes pulling over is safer.
Guest | Feb 26, 2012
Please use a little bit of intelligence here - decide for yourselves? Surely a little common sense if not a little more looking at studies not making slim excuses for crashes. BMJ 2012 January - risk of smoking doubles accident rates. Meta analysis of nine studies. 45,000 drivers. It is strange that when a proposed medical benefit is proposed ( of which cannabis has NONE proven in spite of the claims) any papers is swallowed. - any harms and its almost universally rejected.
flaco | Feb 28, 2012
Likes the pic
Guest | Oct 24, 2012
I just want ya'll to know... I smoke rocks.
Guest | Sep 10, 2013
I suggest you get yourself arrested for admitting you're a no good murdering scumbag. "I didn't kill anyone yet, why should I care about those that did" Screw you, Malevolent Narcissist. SCREW YOU!