This is the conclusion of a recent study that looked at drivers in Washington, where recreational marijuana is legal.
Roadside tests on more than 2,000 drivers revealed that 14% of them had tested positive for THC (the component that gives marijuana its “high”).
Contrary, 0.2% of parents driving with children tested positive for alcohol at breath tests. None of them had blood alcohol levels that were higher than the legal limit.
Researchers pointed out, however, that those with THC in their system were not always driving while stoned.
Positive THC tests simply mean that the individual has used pot recently.
Angela Eichelberger (a researcher at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) said that it is still possible that some of these drivers were impaired.
Eichelberger says it is difficult to determine how marijuana use affects traffic accidents. She noted that drivers who test positive to THC are more likely to have also used other drugs in the “real world”. A driver who tests positive for THC is also more likely to be younger, which can lead to crashes.
Eichelberger stated that controlled lab tests have shown that marijuana can interfere with driving skills.
She said that “Cannabis can impair” but there is no consensus on the impairment threshold. What is the safe limit for a person to consume before it becomes unsafe to drive? What is the best time to wait before you can get behind the wheel?
It is also important to consider the form of marijuana used. Eichelberger pointed out that edible cannabis products can take longer to set in than smoking.
She said that it is best for now to not drive if you are experiencing any effects from marijuana use. She advised people to “err on safety” and ensure they don’t drive anytime soon after taking the drug.
J.T. Griffin is the chief government affairs officer of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Griffin was not part of the study.
“I believe the biggest, most important question is: Are these people driving while impaired?” Griffin agreed.
Griffin says that as more states legalize marijuana for recreational or medical use, it is important to answer fundamental questions.
He said, “We need to find out what marijuana impairment looks and how we can test it.”
Griffin agreed that marijuana users should not drive if they are experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Griffin cited the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s latest safety campaign, which targets not only drunken driving, but also high-speed driving. “If you feel differently, you can drive differently.”
These findings were based on 2,056 drivers from Washington. They were published online in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs on April 24, 2019. Researchers approached drivers at stop lights to ask them if they would like to take part. Volunteers provided blood, saliva, and breath samples.
Drivers were more likely to test positive than for alcohol for THC. Nearly 18% of drivers who drove without children tested positive for THC. Only 4.5% had alcohol in their system.
1.2% of adults driving with children tested positive for alcohol while 14% for THC.
Eichelberger stated that the result was that children in cars seemed to discourage drinking. However, it did not make any statistical difference in the likelihood that THC would be detected.
2012 was the year Washington approved recreational marijuana use. Eichelberger stated that other states might consider similar measures and may want to weigh the potential impact on impaired driving.
She said that other research has shown a small increase in crash rates in states where recreational marijuana is legal.
Century Park Law Group
Century Park Law Group is a law firm that focuses on auto and bike, bus, motorbike, motorcycle, pedestrian and truck. We have been delivering the best results possible for all our clients over the last 17 years. We have created our Los Angeles personal injuries law firm to offer superior service to clients in Southern California. This includes thorough investigations of injury accidents and taking advantage of all available technology to expedite their claims. (866-675-0701 is the number to dial if you’ve been in a car accident, or need a personal injury attorney.