Marijuana-impaired driving increases the risk of car accidents that cause injuries and fatalities. As states continue to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, there has been a significant increase in motor vehicle accidents. Marijuana can make driving a car unsafe, posing a danger to the driver, passengers, and other road users.
Driving High Is Dangerous
There are many misconceptions about the use of marijuana, including a myth that it can’t cause impairment or that it can make one a safer driver. However, the drug is found to have a significant impact on the brain. Just like opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and some prescription drugs, marijuana impairs cognitive functions and motor skills that are essential for safe driving skills. When high, a driver’s judgment is compromised and spatial senses and acuities become distorted.
The risk of causing an accident increases 1.75 times for drivers who use marijuana within 3 hours of driving. High drivers are almost twice as likely to cause a deadly crash than sober drivers. Between 2013 and 2014, 20% of impaired nighttime drivers tested positive for drugs. In 2016, 44% of drivers involved in fatal crashes tested positive for drugs.
The physical effects of marijuana-impaired driving include:
- Reduced hand-eye coordination
- Sleepiness and fatigue
- Anxiety and hallucinations
- Inability to concentrate on the road
- Difficulty in multitasking
Marijuana also alters a driver’s ability to judge distance, lowers the ability to focus on the road, decreases physical coordination skills, and increases evaluation and reaction times. Even with moderate impairment, a driver may fail to respond quickly to unforeseen perils and maintain the high level of attention needed for safe driving. Drivers high on marijuana run a high risk of weaving into other lanes, running off the road, sideswiping other vehicles, braking too late, making unsafe turns, following cars too closely, and reacting too slowly to avoid accidents.
Driving High Is Illegal
Driving impaired by any substance, whether legal or illegal, is unlawful in all states. Law enforcement officers are trained to identify impaired drivers by observing their behavior. Even in states where marijuana has been legalized for medical and recreational use, driving under the influence of the drug is still illegal. However, states need to consider the risk of marijuana-impaired driving, conduct more research, and implement better public policy to address impairment and testing standards.