(courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org )

Crowthorne, Berkshire, United Kingdom: Marijuana appears to have less adverse impact on driving ability than does alcohol, according to findings from a recent study by the UK's Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). The results replicate earlier findings recorded in the US, Australia and elsewhere indicating that marijuana intoxication plays a relatively insignificant role in vehicular accidents.

The TRL study examined the driving performance of fifteen volunteers while under the influence of low and high doses of marijuana, and while sober. All volunteers were tested using a sophisticated driving simulator. Researchers found that marijuana appeared to adversely influence subjects' ability to accurately steer a car (so-called "tracking ability"), but found their reaction time and all other measures of driving performance to be unaffected by the drug. Researchers further noted that subjects were cognizant of their impairment and "attempt[ed] to compensate for [it] by reducing the difficulty of the driving task, for example by driving more slowly."

The authors concluded: "In terms of road safety, it cannot be concluded that driving under the influence of cannabis is not a hazard... However, in comparison with alcohol, the severe effects of alcohol on the higher cognitive processes of driving are likely to make this more of a hazard, particularly at higher levels."

Similar trials previously conducted by the TRL have shown that alcohol and sleep deprivation have a more adverse impact on driving ability than does marijuana. Tests from other countries have yielded comparable results. A May 1998 Australian review of 2,500 injured drivers reported that cannabis had "no significant effect" on driving culpability. A pair of studies released by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1992 and 1993 found the adverse effects of marijuana on driving "relatively small," and concluded that "there [was] no compelling evidence that marijuana contributes substantially to traffic accidents or fatalities."

The most recent TRL study was commissioned by the British Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Copies of the TRL study, which was entitled "The influence of cannabis on driving," are available at http://www.trl.co.uk/detr/abstracts/477.htm online.

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Issue #174, 2/23/01 New Report Rakes Clinton on Imprisonment | The Coca-Go-Round: Peruvian Production Starts to Increase as Spraying Destroys Colombian Fields | Washington State Hardliners Pitch Kindler, Gentler Drug War in Bid to Preempt Deeper Reforms | New Mexico: Update on Gov. Johnson's Drug Reform Package | Feds vs. Bongs: Heads Up for Head Shops | Newsbrief: American Pilots in Firefight With Colombian Rebels | Marijuana Has Less Adverse Effect on Driving Than Alcohol, Tiredness, UK Study Says | Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative Legal Briefs Online | An Invitation to Help Repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws | | Erratum: Three Strikes Clarification | The Reformer's Calendar | Editorial: The Peace Process
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