A huge part of propaganda against marijuana use lately has been the topic of how it affects drivers. Although it’s a reasonable doubt to have in the legalization movement that’s happening around the globe, this myth has been busted. If you want to know how marijuana affects driving skills, keep reading this article.
Since marijuana legalization is increasing, the question has remained as to how cannabis use affects traffic and whether it leads to unsafe driving. Overall, the results of studies make it reasonably clear that marijuana does not impair driving nearly as badly as alcohol. However, that does not necessarily mean it’s safe to drive while stoned.
Investigating this question clears some misconceptions and puts some fears at bay as we continue on the journey of legalizing marijuana around the world.
Cannabis not as bad as alcohol
Research has suggested that in fact, the legalization of marijuana reduces the amount of traffic accidents. This is due to a reduction in the amount of people using alcohol on the roads. By deduction, this could mean that stoned drivers are less dangerous than drunk drivers.
Having said this, marijuana still does affect most of the major parts of the brain required for driving, such as motor control, divided attention and there is always the matter of visual impairment. However, these impairments have generally been considered to be modest compared to those caused by alcohol use.
The Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence has published numerous studies about the effects of alcohol and marijuana on driving. They found that lateral control over a vehicle is much higher in stoned drivers than drunk drivers. Drunk drivers were more likely to weave out of their lane and speed, while stoned drivers just had a tendency to dance around their lanes.
A matter of comparison is necessary to assess the danger of stoned driving, because most of the information we have about driving under the influence has to do with alcohol.
Drunk driving is one of the biggest causes of road accidents in the world and from what we can see, stoned driving isn’t nearly as bad as drunk driving. However, “it’s not as bad as alcohol” isn’t going to cut it when you’re in a debate with someone who’s against legalization.
No evidence that marijuana increases traffic accidents
It is extremely hard to judge how marijuana plays a role in traffic accidents. Marijuana can stay in a person’s blood or urine for long after they have used, especially in the case of chronic users. In the circumstance where a driver died in an accident, it’s impossible to know if they were actually stoned at the time, or whether they were just carrying around THC from the night before.
For this reason, making an association between marijuana and traffic accidents is shaky. A large case study was conducted by the National Highway Traffic Society Administration that found, once all of the variables were considered, that they couldn’t really attribute increased car accidents to the use of cannabis.
Actually, a study conducted in 2013 in the USA found that in the year after medical marijuana laws were changed, the number of fatalities on the road dropped. The authors of this study suggested that this was due to a reduction in alcohol-related road accidents.
In fact, stoners might be less likely to take risks than drunk drivers, and when we consider the cognitive effects of marijuana, this could be true. Whereas drunk drivers tend to lose awareness of their surroundings, those who have had a few puffs experience something more like a heightened awareness, meaning they might be nervous or even paranoid to speed or drive erratically.
The element of paranoia or self-consciousness is more prevalent in smokers than drinkers, perhaps causing the person to exercise greater caution if driving while stoned.
But please… don’t drive stoned
At the end of the day, it’s still not recommended that you drive when you’re stoned. It’s nicer just to relax and enjoy your experience anyway, instead of having to worry about potential disasters, like spending a night in prison!
The point of marijuana is not to go operating a piece of very heavy machinery. But in light of this discussion we can say that there is no evidence that marijuana actually makes you a bad driver.
The myth is busted, because there are more drunk drivers out there causing accidents than stoned drivers. Remember to always use responsibly, and enjoy your high before you hit the road!