18
June
2019
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17:00 PM
America/Chicago

AAA: Many Drivers Underestimate the Dangers or Marijuana Impairment

New survey shows driving high is seen as less dangerous than driving drunk, distracted or drowsy

B-Roll - Cannabis Video

DEARBORN, Mich., (June 19, 2019) — As experts predict Michigan's legal marijuana market sales to outpace Colorado's when its first recreational dispensaries open early next year, a new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals some alarming statistics on drivers' perceptions of the dangers of driving high. Nationally, an estimated 14.8 million drivers report getting behind the wheel within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days. The impairing effects of marijuana are usually experienced within the first one to four hours after using the drug,1 and marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash.2

"Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver's judgement. Yet, many drivers don't consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving," said Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "It is important for everyone to understand that driving after recently using marijuana can put themselves and others at risk."

In the AAA Foundation survey, over 13% of Americans viewed driving within an hour after using marijuana as only "slightly dangerous" or "not dangerous at all" – far more than other risky behaviors like alcohol-impaired driving (1.2%), drowsy driving (1%), and prescription drug-impaired driving (2.2%).

Other survey findings show that:

  • Nearly 70% of respondents think a driver is unlikely to be caught by the police when driving within an hour after using marijuana.
  • Millennials (nearly 14%) are most likely to report driving within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days, followed by Generation Z (10%).
  • Men (8%) are more likely than women (5%) to report driving shortly after using marijuana in the past 30 days.

"Michigan needs to prepare for the impact legal marijuana use will have on the safety of its roads," said Adrienne Woodland, spokesperson for AAA – The Auto Club Group. "That includes more tools and training for law enforcement officers and a substantial public awareness effort."

Programs like Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and the 50-State Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program were developed to train law enforcement officers around the country to more effectively recognize drug-impaired driving. There are currently more than 87,000 ARIDE and 8,300 DECP trained officers patrolling U.S. roads. Additionally, the number of trained Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) has increased by 30% since 2013. These officers report that marijuana is the most frequently identified drug category. Since 2015, the number of drivers arrested by DREs for using marijuana increased 20%.3

AAA recommends all motorists avoid driving while impaired by marijuana or any other drug (including alcohol) to avoid arrest and keep the roads safe. Just because a drug is legal does not mean it is safe to use while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired put themselves and others at risk.

The new survey results are part of the AAA Foundation's annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to traffic safety. The survey data are from a sample of 2,582 licensed drivers ages 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days. The AAA Foundation issued its first Traffic Safety Culture Index in 2008, and the latest report is online at http://www.aaafoundation.org/.

1MacDonald S. Cannabis Crashes: Myths & Truths 2019

2Hall W. What has research over the past two decades revealed about the adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use? Addiction 2015; 110: 19-35.

32017 Annual DECP Report - International Association of Chiefs of Police

About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation's mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.

About The Auto Club Group: The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, insurance, financial services and travel offerings to over 9.8 million members across eleven states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 59 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. Visit AAA on the Internet at AAA.com.