Driving While Stoned

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Stoned drivers.

Most statistics about driving under the influence center around those who are drunk or tipsy. There is a standard sobriety test that police officers use after pulling over a suspected drunk or high driver:

  • Follow a pen with your eyes while the officer moves it back and forth
  • Get out of the car and walk nine steps, heel to toe, turn on one foot and go back
  • Stand on one leg for 30 seconds.

This standard test is exceptionally effective at catching drunk drivers, but no where near as effective when dealing with those under the influence of Marijuana. Unlike driving while drunk, the passing of a field sobriety test while high depends largely on how used to being stoned the driver is. A worrying problem faces the scientific community, the science has not caught up to the places in North America who are now legalizing Marijuana for both medical and recreational use.

In a recent study it was found that 12 percent of young drivers pulled over on a Friday and Saturday night on American highways were drunk. 6 percent of these drivers had also smoked pot. A statistic that, once again, has people worried that due to the increasing availability of Marijuana the message about drunk driving simply hasn’t sunk in for pot smokers. Statistics also tell us that efforts should primarily remain focused on drunk driving, because it would appear that driving while stoned is simply less dangerous.

Via NY Times:

Still, it is clear that marijuana use causes deficits that affect driving ability, Dr. Huestis said. She noted that several researchers, working independently of one another, have come up with the same estimate: a twofold increase in the risk of an accident if there is any measurable amount of THC in the bloodstream.

There are distinct differences in the driving patterns of those who are drunk and those who are stoned. Drivers under the influence of alcohol tend to drive more quickly, while stoned drivers maintain a safer speed. In addition to those findings, lab tests performed on drunk and stoned individuals told scientists that high subjects performed better at simple memory tests as well as simple mathematics, while the drunk subjects did much poorly or failed. More tests proved that stoned drivers may not be able to think and act well on multiple problems facing them.

It is difficult to deal with the growing concern over stoned driving. While the police are fully capable of detecting a drunk driver on the side of the road, it is much more difficult to determine the amount of THC (The main ingredient in Marijuana) in one’s system. The standard urine test used to identify the presence of THC in the body is not very reliable as pot can stay in the user’s system for days or weeks after smoking.

The scientists studying the effects of driving while high have determined what was previously mentioned. They recommend that resources be pooled into fighting drunk driving, as it is far more dangerous statistically. They do, however, agree that a good way to fight stoned driving is to do so at the same time as tackling the issue of those driving under the influence of booze. Somewhat of a two birds with one stone approach.

Driving While Stoned