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The Truth About Driving When You're High on Marijuana

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Concerns about stoned drivers careening across our nation's highways are frequently cited as a justification for the continued criminalization of marijuana. Given the massive casualties associated with drunk driving, it's easy to understand how the specter of increased roadside fatalities can be effective in reinforcing negative attitudes about marijuana. However, a new report reveals that, while stoned driving isn't smart, it's hardly the death sentence some would have us believe.

NORML's Paul Armentano has prepared a scientific review of over a dozen studies evaluating marijuana's effect on psychomotor skills and the risks posed by marijuana intoxication behind the wheel. Armentano finds that marijuana impairment is generally "subtle and short-lived," falling far short of the threats posed by drunk driving.
Although acute cannabis intoxication following smoking has been shown to mildly impair psychomotor skills, this impairment is seldom severe or long lasting. In closed course and driving simulator studies, marijuana’s acute effects on psychomotor performance include minor impairments in tracking (eye movement control) and reaction time, as well as variation in lateral positioning, headway (drivers under the influence of cannabis tend to follow less closely to the vehicle in front of them), and speed (drivers tend to decrease speed following cannabis inhalation). In general, these variations in driving behavior are noticeably less consistent or pronounced than the impairments exhibited by subjects under the influence of alcohol. Also, unlike subjects impaired by alcohol, individuals under the influence of cannabis tend to be aware of their impairment and try to compensate for it accordingly, either by driving more cautiously or by expressing an unwillingness to drive altogether. [see original for citations]
Of course, the point here isn’t that one should get stoned and cruise the strip blasting Led Zeppelin. But this is information one would want if they were trying to create a smart marijuana policy as opposed to the disgraceful mess of legislative lunacy currently passing for marijuana law in America.

Whenever someone claims that marijuana makes you sick or crazy; that it will cause you to crash your car, kill your comrades, or catastrophically co-opt your common sense, just look for the corpses. Where are they? I've looked high and low, but I can't find the disastrous consequences of marijuana use apparent anywhere other than the Drug Czar's predictably propagandized press releases.

But to be fair, there are two horrible things about marijuana that everyone should be mindful of and they are as follows: 1) the smell attracts cops, nosy neighbors, and mooches and 2) the stuff remains detectable in your system for up to a month, thereby enabling various authorities to become needlessly aware of your activities.

If not for these two unfortunate conditions, the marijuana war wouldn't even begin to work, and the blockheads who've been bothering to fight it would've wandered off decades ago.
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Question for Paul Amentano

"NORML's Paul Armentano has prepared a scientific review of over a dozen studies evaluating marijuana's effect on psychomotor skills and the risks posed by marijuana intoxication behind the wheel."

Who cares:

Okay Armentano, let's just say for the sake of your "expertise" that someone has a pregnant wife driving their hurting beater car down a street on the way to the doctor when a kid driving their parents brand new SUV is handing a joint to their pal in the passengers' seat and is not paying attention to the road. They are barely "high" because it's 10:00 AM and not 4:20, so as teenagers they ain't that "stoned" but they are lousy drivers in the first place, not paying attention in the second place and the woman is on her cell phone with her hubby -- baby's daddy -- in the third place. The kid wanders over the double-yellow line and hits the mama to be head on, killing her and the baby-to-be. Does that scenerio figure into any of your "studies" or are you just relying upon veteran drivers driving while imbibing marjiuanna behind the wheel? Hmmmmm?

Response to above comment

Using your logic, anyone with a radio in their car should be incarcerated. It's much more likely that a sober teen would be looking down at the radio display or fiddling with their cellphones and hit your theoretical mother and baby to be. I love that you made the "victim" in your fantasy a pregnant mother. Way to stir those emotions to counteract sane, rational arguments.

Missing the point

Your ridiculous emotional appeal misses the point. There are any number of things one might be doing which can distract a driver at least as much as smoking or passing a joint. Should it also be illegal to drive without having slept enough, or to tune the radio, or have young children in the car or use the telephone (with or without hands-free)? There are hundreds of things which can insome sense cause and accident. The point is to assess the actual dangers caused by any of these factors, not to just react based on an emotionally loaded worst case scenario that may never even happen. Stoned drivers are the least of my worries ont he road.

->Your ridiculous emotional

->Your ridiculous emotional appeal misses the point. There are any ->number of things one might be doing which can distract a driver at ->least as much as smoking or passing a joint. Should it also be ->illegal to drive without having slept enough, or to tune the radio, or ->have young children in the car or use the telephone (with or without ->hands-free)? There are hundreds of things which can insome sense ->cause and accident.

Yes, yes, and yes. It should be illegal (in fact I thought it already was!?) to drive while deprived of sleep. It should be illegal to tune your radio, manipulate an object such as coffee or soda, or do ANYTHING other than drive! Hundreds of things can cause an accident. So why not start stopping them one at a time? Just because there's a lot of things that can go wrong doesn't mean we should just give up and let them all be legal and okay.

Fair is fair after all.

first i'd like to point out

first i'd like to point out you said they are lousy drivers anyway, and that the mom was talking on a cell phone. what if they hadn't been driving when they shouldn't have, or playing on their cell phone? the accident would have been avoided. Why is it the marijuana that you assume to be the cause, when removing any one of those factors would have prevented the crash the same way.

The problem is idiots who do things like that in situations they shouldn't. if you're driving somewhere without a good view, don't look away, if you're on a road where you can see potential accidents coming from far off, then do your phone dialing and radio tuning and joint blazing.

the government shouldn't start taking away people's freedoms just because some people are too irresponsible to use them. that's about like, "don't let people buy waffle irons because some people burn themselves."

Despite what you say im sure

Despite what you say im sure on occasion you do things in the car thats not just driving like tune in the radio, or eat a sandwich or deal with a misbehaving child, or smoke a cigarette. So by your rules even you would break the law on occasion just to stop one minor distraction. and if you know what your doing you can compensate for it by being extra careful.  

So you're proposing that

So you're proposing that everything you do in the car should be illegal ? even to scratch your itching balls.  You want the authorities to fine you and you have to pay up to them till you're money deprived ? Yeah. That's sure a dandy idea. You're just making the polices to find a point with you to get some fast cash. I suggest why dont you go build you're own little world where you be the frickin law maker! I have enough bills to pay up for the end of the month. 

So you're proposing that

So you're proposing that everything you do in the car should be illegal ? even to scratch your itching balls.  You want the authorities to fine you and you have to pay up to them till you're money deprived ? Yeah. That's sure a dandy idea. You're just making the polices to find a point with you to get some fast cash. I suggest why dont you go build you're own little world where you be the frickin law maker! I have enough bills to pay up for the end of the month. 

You're wrong

To dispel your fears here are some points I would like to make. First of all, in the scenario you describe the teenagers aren't high in your own words, so this means that marijuana is not to blame for your hypothetical car accident, apparently poorly driving teenagers affected by attention deficit disorder are. Secondly, the pregnant lady should know better than drive around on her cell phone. Also, have you ever drove while high? It's not hard, and in fact as Armentano stated makes you follow cars less closely and drive slower. I drive high constantly and never has an accident been my fault. I've been rear ended by sober soccer moms to busy multi-tasking to drive safely, and backed into by an idiotic honor student but never have I hit anyone else or drifted over the yellow line while being barely high or ripped out of my mind for. I never did in high school either for that matter. Bitch.


"Does that scenerio figure into any of your "studies"?"

No, it doesn't, because you made it up. How could we possibly study stuff that you make up in your head?

rational laws

Exactly. This is why we don't have laws about space junk falling from the sky, and shutting down the highways on that rare possibility.

I'd agree, that studies, based upon science, and not far fetched scenarios be the basis for our laws. Anecdotal stories will show, the truth, which is far from the right wing imaginary scary stories. IF, cannabis were truly as dangerous in half the ways the right suggests, there would only be about 1/3 of the baby boomers left by now, and half of them, would be in jail for vehicular manslaughter. Facts simply do not support their fears of "out of control" stoned drivers, and oh by the way, every state has a law against impaired drivers in place for a very long time now. That really reduces the argument to the gibberish it is.

The "Who Cares" guy

Like the other posters have stated, you so ignorantly muddy the issue with idiotic bs and no reason behind your reply whatsoever.
Why not just say that the Mom in the SUV is snorting coke and shooting Heroin too, since the marijuana she is smoking was her "Gateway" drug. And that before leaving the house, she got high on her kid's Ritalin too.
The fact of the matter is, the study showed that Marijuana impairs your driving differently and less dangerously than alcohol. The result is that marijuana makes you drive less recklessy as you drive more defensively and slower, so you are less dangerous than if you were all boozed up.
You missed that part I guess.
Fire up a blunt and think about how you have probably missed the point throughout your life.


The problem with your hypothetical problem is that the kids hadn't smoked more. Perhaps you didn't read the findings of this study, but high drivers maintain a greater distance between other vehicles and themselves. They drive at slower speeds and also more cautiously.
Two lives lost because people weren't smoking enough weed.

this could have ben avoided

so this hypothetical and obviously nothing more than that could have ben avoided if these pieces of shit had smoked more now we have a poorly thought up catastrophy in our mitts and we cant do anything to stop this pending hypothetical unless it never took place and were back were we started should i or should i not pull out of my driveway right now 


I would love the chance to get high and out perform the driving of any of these idiots that dont smoke, soon our economy will start suffering(B.C.s) .Our country could be richer than the oil countries. When I smoke MJ It is like cigs to me and effects me as much as cig effect a cig smoker. A cig would make me crash ,I get wasted if I have a cig

driving while high - "njweedman"

I'm a coast to coast trucker and I smoke almost everyday.


Telling the truth about marijuana today is dangerous. - The Government/do-gooders have been lying about marijuana for so long that when a person tells the truth about it they are vilified. -- Similar to how those who said the world was round in centuries past were persecuted.




Ok well then lets take all that into concideration...
Now lets all look past your obvious problems in your pipe-dream of a story, do you truly believe that just because you can make someting up, some outlandish story mentioning a pregnant woman talking to her husband, that it makes it fact?
All that your story did was exactly what Joseph Goebbels did in WWII, use emotion to persuede us, rather than cold, hard, time proven and well researched facts.
Making stuff up is great, but we Legalization advocates believe in showing how absurd our people and country have become with this Billion dollar a year witch hunt.
I have driven "High" to one point or another almost everyday litterally since I have had my drivers license(15 years), and I have never been pulled over, or issued any sort of citation.
Marijuana is really being done an injustice,
Our country was founded on cannabis!
our Nations first flag was crafted out of George Washingtons own personal hemp fiber.

America, its time that you ask yourself where we went wrong, in letting OUR elected representatives tell us what we can and cannot do inside or outside of our homes.
How is it that alcohol can be advertised on the television where children can watch, but cannabis, the worlds most versatile plant is trying to be irraticated, with us picking up the tab...
billions and billions of our tax dollars have been WASTED in a futile "war" basically against Nature, and our people for trusting what god put on this earth for his children.

Genesis 1-3
Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the third day.

The hemp plant (scientific name: cannabis, slang: marijuana) is one of the many useful herbs "yielding seed after its kind" created and blessed by God on the third day of creation, "and God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:12) He gave hemp for people to use with our free will.

The Bible speaks of a special plant. "I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more." (Ezekiel 34:29) A healing plant. On either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare 12 manner of fruits, and yielding her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelations 22:1-2) A gift from God.

so let us as Americans stand up for what we truly believe in, not what we are told to believe, educate YOURSELF, do not let someone else do it for you!!!
Think critically and object whenever you feel fit to do so...ITS YOUR RIGHT AS AN AMERICAN!
Do not let our establishment treat us like sheep, WE are the true power, not Government, The People!
Stand firm in beliefs and dont let the gov'mnt make you believe that Marijunana is a drug...when look at their stance on alcohol...

When a Government fears it's people, there is LIBERTY!
When a people fear it's Government, there is TYRANNY!!!
-Thomas Jefferson



this seems to support the mother to be just as at fault as the person with the joint. And it doesn't appear Weed had anything to do with this accident so what was the point of this story.

You're dumb

How can you say that the marijuana itself caused the accident. What caused the accident was the teenager taking his eyes off the road. He could have taken his eyes off the road through texting, putting in a cd, changing the radio, or anything. Marijuana did not cause this accident you described it was the teenagers lack of experience, which becomes a whole other argument. Don't take your eyes off the road no matter what you do, but still smoke with your eyes on the road.


Let's be honest... who hasn't passed a joint in a car? Now i understand what you mean, person-a takes his/her eyes off the road to pass a joint and in that split second, swerves and kills a "pregenat woman." But what is person-b doing? Does person-a have to place it in their hand? In fact, person-b's arm is halfway across the car ready to grab it. The most person-a will do, is glance over to see where person-b's hand is. It's not diffrent then passing a cigarette, or looking at the radio like whatshisname said. Next time you try to contradict someone with your fantasey accidents, think. And no, im not just some stoner who's pissed off at you. In fact, I had to quit smoking pot, due to probation. (I didn't get arrested for possession either) Think about that Mr. Anti-Buddah

That is a matter of not

That is a matter of not paying attention and goes in the category of activities such as texting or talking on the phone while driving. Simply don't smoke and drive at the same time. But this argument has NOTHING to do with being high while driving. Stick the argument and don't stretch the argument to something like that. If we follow that argument then we should ban food, beverages, and music in the car.

flawed on both sides.....

driving should be a time when concentration is 100% perception has to be 100% and lateral thinking has to be 100%. ok while stoned perception is max and concentration is max lateral thinking is flawed "dude what were you saying?" while pregnant driving can be a stressful situation resulting in minimized concentration "ouch the baby is on my bladder,oh hes kicking now" resulting in limited perception of the road obviously the pregnant mother in your story hasnt been thinking properly either why is she on her cell phone while all other points are running through her head obviously a tragic loss but its on both party's (the teenagers and the preggers woman) that were acting inappropriately

just a point i thought should be made

dear mister

by the way you said that im thinking your a mom or dad concerned about other peoples safety but the thing is your an ignorant person that knows nothing about cannabis it 10 am and not 420 so were not that stoned? what does the time have to do with ones tolerance you are clearly just speaking out of your ass and its people like that make it sound like cannabis users are serial killers and handing somebody a joint isnt rocket science you just stick your hand out for them to grab it you dont even have to look at them and as soon as read your comment I knew your a very stupid person who probaly never even tried it and makes opnion through streotypes that are fake

What a dipshit. Lets say the

What a dipshit. Lets say the kid is handing a cheeseburger to his passenger and isnt high at all. He still isnt paying attention and you also said the woman is on her cell phone while driving. Nice job not making a point at all.

Very good point

Very good point

Who cares:Okay Armentano,

Who cares:

Okay Armentano, let's just say for the sake of your "expertise" that someone has a pregnant wife driving their hurting beater car down a street on the way to the doctor when a kid driving their parents brand new SUV is handing a joint to their pal in the passengers' seat and is not paying attention to the road. They are barely "high" because it's 10:00 AM and not 4:20, so as teenagers they ain't that "stoned" but they are lousy drivers in the first place, not paying attention in the second place and the woman is on her cell phone with her hubby -- baby's daddy -- in the third place. The kid wanders over the double-yellow line and hits the mama to be head on, killing her and the baby-to-be. Does that scenerio figure into any of your "studies" or are you just relying upon veteran drivers driving while imbibing marjiuanna behind the wheel? Hmmmmm?


I care:

The argument that you've subbmitted is both hypothetical and to be blunt, stupid. First of all, you said that the kid hand the j to his friend was barley high, and how would handing somebody a joint have any more of an impact on the distractibility of the kid is apparently a "lousy driver in the first place," than him looking down to see that his mother is calling him, or his stepdad asking him how to enter an address onto the nav system? It wouldnt, that's how. Or even better, since your the master of creating usless scenarios: a lady is having a baby and has her mother drive her to the hospital. Her "hubby," calls the mother's phone, since the lady forgot it, and asks for his wife. In the prosess of handing the phone over, the mother behind the wheel of the car drifts over the yellow line and smashes into an SUV belonging to a teenager on the way to school with his little sister in the car. Second of all the "mama to be," is just as distracted from driving as the kid passing the joint if not, more so since she's talking to her husband. Since you are clearly an ignorant and biased person, hopefully the presentation of an alternate point of view gives you better insight on what you think you know about.


Ok as I read all these ridiculous comments all I could say was wow! Most of them are clearly written by people who choose to smoke weed so they are going to be biased regardless of what anyone says. What people seem to forget is that any drug effects people in different ways, so u can't really be sure if it's ok for everyone to drive high. So why write an article justifying such nonsense? And why are you people so stupid? If you really believe that you can't get in an accident while driving high you are all idiots. Just because it hasn't happened to you yet doesn't mean it can't. So what if you do finally crash and you kill someone, what will your excuse be that this article said that it would be fine to drive high.   

Your Ignornance is Bliss.

Ok first of all, YOU created that WHOLE story up. I've been  smoking marijuana for 12 years now and I'm a comedian. I have to drive a lot and were not so stupid as you may think. I don't make stupid decisions while I'm high, and at least 100 of my friends smoke marijuana and drive on a regular basis. I asked how many of them have gotten a speeding ticket within the last 5 years and NONE of them said yes. I asked if how many of them have gotten in a car crash in the last 10 years and 3 people said yes and it was because they were all rear ended. Clearly ALCOHOL is more DANGEROUS than marijuana, and if you think passing a joint to your friends is bad, why don't you think of a teenager putting her makeup on while driving, or putting their backpack in the back seat while driving, that's the same thing. Where is all the bodies? Marijuana has never killed someone surely people have died while driving intoxicated with marijuana in their system, but it was the ALCOHOL in their system that killed them. Marijuana makes you make calculated decisions while Alcohol doesn't give you the chance to make the decision. So fuck you and go fuck your religion 

Since you seem to be such a whiz

First off, a kid smoking marijuana in his parents car is highly unlikely, as anyone with a mental state above vegetable is going to realize that their parents are going to smell it. Where did you get this idea from? Just for the sake of argument? Well if you're trying to prove a point, it helps if your argument makes sense. Anyways, lets get back to this awful depiction you are trying to set. Are you aware that the time doesn't affect your high? I'm not sure if this is showing your lack of intelligence or if you are attempting to make a bad pun, but either way you still wind up looking like a fool. On to this "teenagers are lousy drivers in the first place." I am 18, and I have been driving for 2 and a half years. Out of that time, I have had 0 accidents, and very few close calls. The 2 close calls I did have were caused by stress. When you are under the influence of marijuana, stress is absent, so going by this logic you are actually less likely to get into an accident while high. Also, I am sure that half of these teenagers are more cautious on the road than you are, knowing that they are a prime target for cops and that their parents will be upset with them if they do get in trouble on the road. Here's where your English abilities again make a pitfall. "The kid wanders over the double-yellow line..." Last time I checked, this kid was driving, not walking. Also, you wouldn't exactly describe wandering as moving at a fast pace, meaning that this collision you are describing is going to be of minimal damage.

Why would they study a story as highly unlikely as yours? Hmmmmmm?

A polite as possible response

Most teenagers who are willing to drive while under the influence of cannabis are those who are familiar with it. These are the seasoned users who, even while smoking, are not that high, and are often far more cautious than otherwise.

Clearly what I have stated cannot be said to be fact,however neither can what you're saying. I'm not saying that you are wrong, simply that things are not set in stone. Not all teenagers are lousy drivers, not all marijuana users are wreckless, and hopefully pregnant women are not talking on the phone while driving.

First of all when u hand

First of all when u hand someone a j while driving your eyes can stay on the road you wouldnt "loose" your attention

Re-read your statement

There is so much wrong here. First, the article talked about smoking then driving, not smoking while driving. Also, what is the "mama-to-be" doing talking on the phone while driving. That's one of the most dangerous distractions! Said woman or teenager could die anyway of the week, because driving is allowed. It comes with inherent risk. The article was mostly comparing alcohol and driving to weed and driving. How the user is affected. Read before you comment with such blasphemy!!!

where does the marijuana come from?

one question comes to mind when i read this - essentially no medical research can be done because no one can legally get the marijuana for it. where is it coming from for the driving studies?

and i need to chime in on comment #1 too...sounds like the real danger in your scenario is an inexperienced teenage driver. maybe the pregnant mom should have not been on her cell phone. the fact remains that there are many, many everyday things that impair driving more than marijuana use, which tends to slow people down and give more room to the people in front of them! now will you argue that fast driving and tailgating are not major causes of accidents?

Uh, yes you can.


Of course marijuana can be obtained for medical research, it would be unjust to make something illegal and leave no room for debate. Prestigious medical research organizations can get licensed to produce marijuana for their studies.

where have you been?

The DEA has continued to refuse to allow research studies by blocking the permits the people were supposed to obtain. There was a recent ruling by an administrative law judge with the DEA, that directly addressed this question. You are living in an ideal world, by what I see you have written here. Too bad it is not what is really going on!

Are you fully informed?

Did you know about this? Can you really claim to be educated about this issue?


The article in the referenced link, talks about the government supplying medical marijuana to a few patients. It has nothing to do with research. It makes no sense to use it in the defense of a system that limits the research on marijuana, in this country. Education has very little to do with common sense. And I have plenty of education! But, I hope I have more common sense than to offer a bogus article in defense of that topic discussed here. Eight medical marijuana patients do not a RESEARCH STUDY make! Research is being blocked by the DEA. The judge ordered them to stop their behavior. But, they are above the rule of the judge (law?) aren't they? Nuff said!

The patients ARE the

The patients ARE the research.

Driving While Stoned

First, as to Paul Amentano's report ... yes, Thank You. That is one of fthe things NORML should be doing.

Secondly, I have driven stoned ... ONCE .. and had exactly the reactions found in the study, right up to the point of determining to not do it again. My (deceased) husband was an alcoholic. In eleven years, he drove drunk twice despite my best efforts to prevent it (he picked me up at work and I didn't realize he was drunk until he pulled out of the parking lot). Fortunately, it was only about 2 miles home but I was scared witless and prayed the entire way home. Conversely, the guy I live with is a good driver sober and I notice no perceptible difference in his driving when he's stoned.

While I have no evidence to prove my assumption, my guess is that the use of cellphones by drivers has already left a horrific trail of accidents, injuries, and deaths. If a stoned driver is in an accident, s/he was probably hit by a drunk or cellphone user. Most likely no stoned driver would be using a cellphone, the only phone call that could possibly be THAT important to a stoner would be to his/her dealer and THAT call would have been made BEFORE the driver left home!

I'd also be interested in

I'd also be interested in calling my local pizza shop or other delivery service for when I get home :D

Thanks Paul!

While on chemotherapy several years ago I noticed that the antidepressant zoloft made my driving unstable. It made me shakey. Only after injesting cannabis did I feel secure enough to drive.
I'll be quite honest, I have been driving while on cannabis since 1972 and the only infractions that I've had are from alcohol which I have given up. Cannabis only makes driving more interesting and enjoyable, just like everything else, music, art, etc.... While first time or casual users should not attempt this, unlike alcohol, new cannabis users know better than to get behind the wheel. Why spoil the buzz!


Garry Minor
Columbus Indiana

Before you can logically

Before you can logically discuss the quality of people's driving, you first have to understand the concept of Risk Compensation: the effect whereby individual animals may tend to adjust their behaviour in response to perceived changes in risk. It is seen as self-evident that individuals will tend to behave in a more cautious manner if their perception of risk or danger increases. Another way of stating this is that individuals will behave less cautiously in situations where they feel "safer" or more protected.

As a person ages, their motor and thinking skills diminish, but the mind is able to compensate for the delays in signal processing, so that an old man can continue to play the piano or drive a car. Despite their reduced reaction time, the elderly get into far fewer accidents because they take greater caution, and reduce the risks in their behavior as compensation.

It has been shown that pot smokers' skills are actually much better than they precieve them to to be. Therefor they take greater steps towards Risk Compensation than are actually necessary. Time after time, sudies which have been set up to show how bady pot smokers drive have in fact showed the opposite. Pot smokers generally driver much safer than an average sober person, and under-estimate the quality of their own driving. They also tend to look past the artifical lines of guidance to see what other cues to danger might be present.

Compare this to the driver drunk on alcohol, who do not precieve the great extent to which their factulties are diminished, and who over-estimate the quality of their driving. These are ther drivers who will, for example hit the gas on a green light before the driver in front of them has noticed the light change, rear-ending the next driver in the process. They process the most simple or obvious cues without paying attention to anything past that.

The very archtecture of the road, with it's lane guides, marked crosswalks, signs, signals, etc. have in fact been shown to increase the number of accidents compared to the same roads and intersections where they are not present. Ex. put a crosswalk in the road where people normally jaywalk, and as a result more pedestrians will be struck by cars, because they will feel artificially safe, and check to see if drivers notice them. Road guidance are put in place mainly as a tool to make people FEEL safer on the road, when you are in fact statistically less safe because you compensate for the lower precieved risk by engaging in more risky behavior.

Remove the lines, signs, and signals from a road, and drivers will respond to the risks that are actually present on the road, and drivers look directly to eachother for guidance and negotiation. Most accidents are in fact caused by a driver taking the right-of-way when it has not been given to them - failures in negotiation. In effect, anything that makes a driver feel safer on the road will increase their compensation for lower precieved risk. In South East Asia, you can find major intersections where masses of motorbikes, busses, cars, animals, bicycles, and pedestrians all move quickly through unsignaled and unregulated intersections with no descernable pattern, and yet accidents are actually very rare because all drivers are negotiationg with eachother directly, and they adjust their behavior to match the situation.

The author reponds...

First, I'm glad to see that folks are interested in my report. That said, I would encourage folks to please read my full report, as many of the issues raised above are addressed in the full text.

For those who have not read my report, the primary conclusions are:

** Past use of cannabis, as defined by the presence of inactive metabolites in urine, is not associated with an elevated accident risk compared to controls.

** Recent use of cannabis within the past few hours, as defined by THC/blood concentrations below 5 ng/ml, is seldom associated with elevated accident risk compared to controls.

** Acute cannabis intoxication, as defined by THC/blood concentrations above 5ng/ml, may be positively associated with an elevated risk of accident compared to controls, but this risk is lower than the risk posed by alcohol.

** Acute cannabis and alcohol intoxication combined is associated with an elevated risk of accident that is greater than the use of either substance alone.

Based on this evidence, the latter third of the report makes several policy recommendations, including the establishment of a nationwide educational campaign targeting drivers age 16-25, as this group is most likely use cannabis and report having operated a motor vehicle shortly after consuming pot. In addition, this population may have less driving experience, may be more prone to engage in risk-taking behavior, and may be more naïve to pot’s psychoactive effects than older, more experienced populations. This population also reports a greater likelihood for having driven after using cannabis in combinations with other illicit drugs or alcohol. Such an educational campaign was recently launched nationwide in Canada by the Canadian Public Health Association (I was one of the consultants) and could readily be replicated in the United States. Arguably, such a campaign would enjoy enhanced credibility if coordinated by a private public health association or traffic safety organization, such as the American Public Health Association or the AAA Automobile Club, as opposed to the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy – whose previous public service campaigns have demonstrated limited influence among younger audiences.

For those out there who wish to read more on this subject, I’d recommend the following resources:

* Franjo Grotenhermen. Drugs and Driving: Review for the National Treatment Agency, UK. Nova-Institut (Germany). November 2007.

* Drummer et al. 2004. The involvement of drugs in drivers killed in Australian road traffic crashes. Accident, Analysis and Prevention 36: 239-248.

* Grotenhermen et al. 2007. Developing per se limits for driving under cannabis. Addiction (E-pub ahead of print).

* Bedard et al. 2007. The impact of cannabis on driving. Canadian Journal of Public Health 98: 6-11.

* Laumon et al. 2005. Cannabis intoxication and fatal road crashes in France: a population base case-control study. British Medical Journal 331: 1371-1377.

Finally, to address two of the comments above. One, these are not "my" studies; my report is simply a review of the available evidence. The literature may differ from some folks' perceptions, but that is hardly a reason to deny the evidence. Two, regarding "risk compensation," I must point out that drivers over age 60 do in fact have an approximately three-fold elevated accident risk on the road compared to drivers age 30. In fact, this elevated risk is quite similar to the overall drugged driving risk compared to controls -- a comparison that I go in depth about in my report, and that is summed up in detail by Grotenhermen in his recent review: "Drugs and Driving: Review for the National Treatment Agency, UK."

Let's get real...

I'm a 69 yr/old jazz musician - bassist - and have been smoking herb since my early twenties. I used to drink, (Emphasis on "used to"...) and never got a DUI or had an accident when drinking. I credit this to pure, blind luck, since I used to drive when seriously impaired. I quit drinking over 25 years ago, mostly because of its effects on my ability to play well. Don't miss it.

Marijuana, on the other hand, has no adverse effect on my motor coordination and allows me to concentrate on the music and get past the pain and numbness of arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. I find the resulting attitude adjustment to be helpful, as well. From where I sit I can acknowledge health dangers similar to tobacco, but not much else.

What the hell does this have to do with marijuana's effects on driving a car or motorcycle? (Both of which I do. Been riding longer than I've been driving...) For me - and I emphasize that I'm probably not your typical driver - the effect is similar to why I like to play behind it. (I need to qualify this a little further. I am definitely NOT talking about smoking myself into a stupor. May occasionally do that, but not on a bike or in a car. Period. When I was twenty-five, though... We've all been young and stupid.) My approach to riding and driving is probably a little off the norm, too. I'm a gearhead, as well as a bass player. Riding well, especially, is a lot like playing my bass. Very intimate and skill-based. Somewhat less so in a car, but still there. A little herb actually helps. Again, I'm not talking about doing these things wasted.

The difference between driving drunk and driving stoned:

The drunk driver speeds through the stop sign without even seeing it.

The stoned driver stops and patiently waits for it to turn green.

- Pete Guither



stoned driver stops

Me to.

drunk vs. high

I've logged about 40,000 miles stoned. Not a single accident, ticket or any other incident. I delivered pizza for 3 years, even smoking while working (dumb, yes, but shhh) and never came close to causing an accident. Also I've been touring with my band cross country smoking all the way without incident. Not even a close call.
A while back I tried to drive home after spending a night out at a local bar and didn't get buit a halfmile down the road when I missed a curve while texting (!!) Hitting a guardrail.

Same here

I've probably put about the same miles (or more) on 1 car alone while stoned. I used to do foreclosure inspections, lots of driving all day long, and I worked long days. The only dangerous side to it would be falling asleep in traffic. Which, while SOBER, I once actually dozed off in stop and go traffic on 635 in Texas. I was at a dead stop and my brakes releasing thankfully woke me up. Afterward I learned to turn the music up and find ways to stay awake. Also google the drive home for traffic before I began the journey.


Anyway, back to the topic. Driving while high sort of makes everything slow motion. So much that, it could feel like it's taking me forever to drive down a lengthy road. I'd say "geez how long have I been on this road". But it's VERY easy to follow 1 speed while high. Not sure why, it really does seem to slow time down. And trust me, there was some times where I would be SUPER baked driving, in traffic, and controlling every second of it.


Alcohol however... I drove SLIGHTLY tipsy once, and was just staring into space while approaching a red light and I almost ran the light. I will NEVER drive even tipsy again. It just lowers your care for everything. Scary. Very scary. People need to understand that alcohol is a VERY powerful drug. It can kill you, it's very addicting, and it DOES effect your driving. Yet how many Americans drink regularly and don't see it as a drug?

Marijuana prohibition creates more stoned teen drivers

I don't care if it's not as bad as alcohol. It impairs you quite a bit and kids and adults alike shouldn't be driving under the influence. People do get in accidents and in some cases people are killed. Of course, we should be diligent about minimizing impairment of all forms: alcohol, marijuana, cell phones, etc. Keep in mind not all marijuana is equal by any means and varies in potency, just like alcohol, but because marijuana is not regulated people don't know how powerful it is until they use it. If it were regulated, states would be able to control the potency of mj sold to the public. It's very concerning that inexperienced teen drivers are having easier access to this stronger marijuana from dealers. We should highly discourage any kind of driving while intoxicated and highlight how marijuana prohibition does not have control over these dealers, encourages greater teen use and, therefore, increases the likelihood of automobile accidents on the road. It's a very permissive situation we now have and has created a dangerous environment for families. Also, I think every state should have laws requiring special sealed packaging of marijuana and any marijuana in an open container or package in an automobile should be considered a law violation like driving with an open container for alcohol. If it were legally regulated, this form of packaging could be standardized for all marijuana sales. Marijuana prohibition is hardly prohibits anything except sensible public safety measures.

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