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What are the effects of marijuana use on driving?

We are conditioned to see driving after drinking as extremely dangerous (and it is) and the social stigma associated with that behavior is very negative. Unfortunately, alcohol is not the only substance that causes impaired driving; marijuana use can also cause a driver to become impaired. Driving while drunk is dangerous and several devices and tests have been developed to measure a person’s level of intoxication. Breathalyzers, Intoxilyzers, and BAC calculators were created to pinpoint a driver’s BAC, helping the police and prosecutors enforce laws to stop people from drinking and driving.

How Does Marijuana Affect A Driver?

Today, there are technological limitations in determining how much drug use it takes to impair someone’s ability to drive. Using common sense, we can safely assume that even a small amount of marijuana use can have frightful effects on someone’s capacity to operate a vehicle safely. Some facts we know: * Marijuana can negatively impact a driver’s ability to focus * Marijuana has shown to warp a driver’s discernment of speed and sense of time * Studies have shown that when alcohol and marijuana use is combined, impairment can increase considerably * These same studies also reveal that many drivers who have been drinking all too often have marijuana in their system as well.

Driving High Compared to Driving Drunk

When someone is driving drunk they generally exhibit dangerous behaviors including repeated lane changes, driving way too fast for the road, swerving or unnecessary stopping. Alcohol decreases a person’s inhibitions and can make them more aggressive. The effects of marijuana usage are somewhat different. People who use marijuana have a tendency to show signs of paranoia and this makes them more careful in their driving. Since their concept of time is distorted, making time seem to pass more slowly, these persons tend to be overly cautious while driving. Even though alcohol and marijuana use have different effects on a driver, the results are equally dangerous. In a recent study, researchers put people who had recently smoked marijuana behind the wheel to test their driving abilities. The tests showed that although these people drove more slowly, they were still susceptible to possibly fatal accidents due to apparent delusions and loss of memory. Recently, 150 drivers who were arrested for reckless driving in Memphis, TN, were tested for drugs at the scene. A full one-third tested positive for marijuana. While the research is not nearly as vast as the studies that involve alcohol and driving, all states have passed laws that make driving under the influence of drugs as serious as driving while intoxicated. It is obvious that marijuana negatively affects skills needed for safe driving: reaction time, alertness, muscle coordination and the capacity to concentrate on a task. These effects can last up to 24 hours after use. It is a good idea to not use marijuana at all, but if you do, do not combine it with driving; it is a dangerous activity that puts everyone at risk.