December is Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.
* Reader discretion is advised, content describes details of violent crimes.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) helped wake up the country to the dangers of drunk driving. They succeeded in getting laws changed, nationwide in the United States. Now that four more states have legalized marijuana, what about stoned or high driving? Driving under the influence of a drug (DUID), is this something to be concerned about or, is it, as many stoners believe, people drive better while impaired?
“According to a study released today by the largest federation of auto clubs, the AAA, nearly 70% of Americans think it’s “unlikely” a motorist will be busted for driving while high on marijuana. The study also found that in the last 30 days almost 15 million drivers have gotten behind the wheel of a car within an hour of smoking, ingesting or covering themselves with a marijuana product. That can be as bad — or even worse — than driving while intoxicated or texting on a cellphone, because the drug’s effects usually last up to four hours.”
|More drivers are driving under the influence of pot than ever before, and the reason is that most drivers assume they won’t get caught, according to this new study by the American Automobile Association.|
|Unlike with alcohol, a blood test does not determine marijuana impairment. It can only prove there is THC is in the bloodstream. There is a high correlation between blood alcohol content (BAC) and levels of alcohol-impairment, but THC is unlike alcohol chemically, biologically and metabolically.|
Use the Right Terms
Driving under the influence of marijuana is driving impaired, not driving “high”. There is nothing positive about an impaired driver who causes fatal injury to others.
Traffic incidents caused by impaired driving should be referred to as crashes, rather than “accidents.” Driving under the influence of a substance, and without your full mental capacity, is a choice. During the sentencing of the driver who killed 9-year-old Carter Vo, Cook County Circuit Judge Lauren Gottainer Edidin said Carter’s death wasn’t accidental because the driver, Hanin Goma, smoked marijuana on the day the boy was killed.
“These are the most tragic cases we get as judges,” Edidin said. “I don’t see it as an accident. I see it as a traffic crash.”
Marijuana DUID in the News
Today, the press often reports of “driving under the influence” as if it must mean alcohol, not mentioning when an impaired driver was under the influence of marijuana, another drug or both alcohol and marijuana. The false reporting minimizes to readers the fact that there is a danger to driving after using marijuana. Combined with the pot users who brag of driving better while stoned, it’s clear why teens, who assume that stoned driving is safe, have been given the wrong impression.
Parents Opposed to Pot has tracked news reports of at least 140 fatal crashes in which only marijuana, and not other drugs, contributed to the impairment causing the crash. These cases are particularly notable for the many teens who died this way, making the mistake of riding in a car with friends who recently used marijuana.
Driver Education Needs to Teach about Drugged Driving
A recent survey of students found that they were much more aware that drinking alcohol and driving was hazardous than driving under the influence of marijuana. Although 88% of the students knew alcohol impaired driving to a dangerous degree, only 68% thought cannabis could do the same. This excellent government website, Just Think Twice has great information to educate young people. See Getting High and Driving.
PopPot wrote an article in 2018 warning about mixing alcohol and cannabis and getting behind the wheel.The effects of using both drugs multiplies the mind-altering effects. Alcohol and Marijuana together Magnifies Driving Difficulties.
|The Governors Highway Safety Administration offers some good educational graphs and other training materials. Although their aim is educating state policy makers, parents and teachers we need to do the grassroots education of our children and teens. We also need to make sure our state representatives see this valuable information.|
Pilots Grounded for 28 Days After Marijuana Use
|Canadian pilots are warned that because of the length of time it takes for cannabis (including CBD) to leave your system, they must not fly for 28 days if they consume the drug. See Transport Canada.|
What the Science Reveals
A study authored by researchers from New York Medical College and Harvard University, found marijuana commercialization to be associated with an increase of 2.1 traffic fatalities per billion vehicle miles traveled (BVMT). Furthermore, the study finds that were marijuana to be legalized nationwide, it would be associated with 6,800 excess roadway deaths each year. See the study in JAMA, Change in Traffic Fatality Rates in the First 4 States to Legalize Recreational Marijuana by Russell S. Kamer, MD; Stephen Warshafsky, MD; Gordon C. Kamer.
Harvard researchers found that recreational cannabis use decreases driving performance, even when the person is no longer high. See this article in the Insurance Journal. The lead paragraph in CNN reporting on the same study said, “Running red lights. Driving at high speeds. Crossing center lines into the opposite lanes. Getting into accidents — even hitting pedestrians. A new study found these were some of the dangerous driving behaviors of regular, heavy users of recreational weed who began using before the age of 16.” See Weed Impairs Driving Long After the High is Gone.
In this radio interview, Dr. Marilyn Heustis and Tom Marcotte discuss the fact that drivers high on marijuana are more impaired for longer periods that we realize.
DUID Crash is a Violent Crime
A Mother’s Story
Many people think that violence involves only guns, knives, fists and other such things. But think for a minute about this, isn’t killing someone with your car a violent crime? I think the person being hit would say it’s very violent.
Everyday, innocent people are walking and riding bikes on and around the streets, as well as other people in cars going to work, and some containing families; and all containing people that are loved by others. People out and about partially depend on others, as well as themselves, to be sure they are safe, sober and alert as they go about their lives.
These are senseless tragedies involving cars that take precious lives each day. Statistics show that 29 people die each day from impaired driving, but in many cases the use of marijuana goes undetected. Once law enforcement finds alcohol and charges the perpetrator, they stop looking for other intoxicants and no drug testing is administered.
We need to be aware of the great numbers of people driving impaired. The sad news is, it’s estimated that an impaired driver has driven impaired up to 80 times before they are ever caught. I fear that was the case when my most beautiful daughter was killed in a violent crash on July 24, 2012. The 26 year old man was driving high on medical marijuana, sanctioned via a medical marijuana card, granted to him by the State of Michigan. He said in a mumbling low voice when asked, “why were you driving so fast (82mph) and why did you go through the red light in the intersection”? “Gee, I don’t know”, he responded. Well, here’s another question, if he didn’t know, then who did? THC impairs the brain, causes tunnel vision, distorts the sense of movement and space perception. It delays the response time as the brain function is slowed. This is why I say that this is a violent crime.
My daughter’s car took the full impact of that man’s Camero. He hit her broadside, careening her car across the intersection through the front of a Lube Stop building, taking out the building’s center beam. Now that’s a violent crime and there is no disputing it. Granted, he didn’t know he would kill my daughter, but he had to know from all the warnings he received from previous DUIs, that what he was doing would lead to someone’s death in a violent way. So again, marijuana is a drug that leads to violence and you can’t say “unintended” as all drivers know, they shouldn’t be driving while impaired.
–Corinne Gasper, Ohio
The Other DUID Victims Featured in our Video
Click on each name below photo to read their stories.
Please familiarize yourself with the data presented in this excellent video by Phillip Drum, a pharmacist whose sister was killed by a marijuana-impaired driver. He is now a leading expert on marijuana DUID.