High-way Safety: Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
The holiday season is meant to be a time of celebration, but, for many, it can take a tragic turn. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that every year between Christmas and New Year’s, over 300 people are killed because of drunk driving. However, alcohol isn’t the only substance partygoers may choose to consume while feeling festive. That being said, all those who think they are being safer by swapping a martini for marijuana before hitting the road are sorely mistaken.
Less than 30 percent of Americans think driving while impaired by marijuana is a very serious problem. Some people even think driving under the influence of drugs such as marijuana makes them a “safer, more attentive and/or more cautious driver.” But, when you look carefully, the data suggest otherwise. One study found that there has been an increase in car crashes within the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use since their new policies have gone into effect. Although this study has its limitations, as it does not indicate how many of these car crashes are associated with marijuana use, the correlation does give reason to be concerned.
Another study that tested people’s abilities to drive while under the influence of alcohol and marijuana via a driving simulator found that using marijuana can lead to similar levels of driving impairment as driving at or above the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level. Additionally, the effects of marijuana were greater when coupled with alcohol – even if blood concentration of THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) and of alcohol was “below the impairment thresholds for each substance alone.”
This year, whether you anticipate attending a party where alcohol is being served, or find yourself around people consuming marijuana or other drugs, don’t put your life -- or the lives of others -- at risk. Make smart choices about how you’re getting home and help others to do the same.
Here are recommendations from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to avoid impaired driving. All of these ideas can be applied to instances where marijuana or other drugs are being used, too:
- Remember that it is never okay to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation to get home safely.
- Download NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app, available on Google Play for Android devices. SaferRide allows users to call a taxi or a predetermined friend and identifies the user’s location so he or she can be picked up.
- Use your community’s sober ride program.
- If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact law enforcement.
- Have a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.
This year, keep the holidays happy. We encourage everyone to make thoughtful, informed choices about their substance use and to put safety first.
Hannah Freedman is a communications and digital associate at Center on Addiction