A new study published in Forbes raises concerns about how much knowledge drivers have when it comes to drugged driving. A recent study regarding teens and marijuana use found that one-third of teens think it’s legal to drive while under the influence of marijuana in states where marijuana is legalized. While this could be written off as teenage ignorance, 27% of parents surveyed thought the same thing. To be clear, it is absolutely not legal to drive after consuming marijuana.
2,800 teenagers and 1,000 parents were surveyed and the results of the study highlight a common phenomenon that can be seen across the United States - drivers are well aware of the dangers that come with drunk driving, but the consequences of drugged driving are much less clear. Driving after consuming drugs just isn’t seen as being as dangerous as drunk driving! 88% of teens said driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous, but only 63% said the same of marijuana. The surveyed parents rendered similar results, with 93% recognizing the dangers of alcohol, but only 76% recognized the dangers of marijuana.
While drivers may not be as informed about the dangers of drugged driving, they are still very real. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 43% of fatally injured drivers in 2015 tested positive for drugs. This is higher than the 37% of fatally injured drivers found to have alcohol in their system. Of those drugged drivers, 35.6% tested positive for marijuana. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2016, 11.8 million people aged 16 or older drove under the influence of illicit drugs. Men were found more likely to drive under the influence of drugs than women, and drivers ages 18-25 were more likely to drive drugged than drivers 26 and older.
Marijuana, in particular, can slow reaction time, impair judgement of time and distance, and decrease coordination, which is why driving under the influence or marijuana risks car accidents. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, driving under the influence of marijuana can also lead to lane weaving and altered attention to the road. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) shows that 2015 saw a 47% rise in the number of drivers testing positive for marijuana. Driving while under the influence of marijuana increases the driver’s chances of being involved in a car accident by 25%.
While it is clear that drugged driving is an issue, it is also clear that much more research is still needed. The NHTSA admits that they, “still have much to learn about how illegal drugs and prescription medicines affect highway safety.” This is likely because of how difficult it is to gather data on drugged driving accidents. Currently, there is no good road side test (such as a breathalyzer) for drug use. (Michigan even tried to implement a roadside drug testing pilot last year, but progress has been delayed.) On top of that, there are hundreds of drugs that drivers could be using, and they all vary in how much they impair the driver and how likely they are to cause a car crash. It is also common to find that drivers have consumed a combination of different drugs and alcohol, making testing difficult. Often, police won’t even test for drugs if the driver’s BAC has already been found to be over the legal limit. All of this means that further research and protocols are needed when it comes to collecting data on drugged driving.
Better collection methods and more data are clearly needed in order to fully understand the dangers of drugged driving, but there is more than enough data to know that drugged driving is dangerous. As more states move to legalize marijuana, there could be confusion on this issue when there really shouldn’t be. While using the drug may be legal, driving after using it is not. Like alcohol, marijuana and other drugs, impair the driver, not only putting the driver at risk of a car accident, but also the lives of other people in the car, other people on the road, and innocent bystanders.
Drugged driving is illegal and very dangerous. Driving under the influence puts the driver and others on the road, at risk of being involved in a car crash. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident due to a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol, call The Michigan Law Firm, PC at 844.4MI.FIRM, for a free legal consultation.