Almost 15 million Americans admit they drive while under the influence of marijuana, according to a new study by AAA. The alarming news does not end with the sky-high number of impaired drivers, either. Millennials (25 to 39 years old) were most likely to get high before driving, followed closely by Generation Z (under 24 years old). While unsurprising given their age, AAA correctly notes that the majority of stoned drivers are also the most inexperienced – a dangerous combination. The survey also showed that drug-impaired drivers appear unconvinced of its danger and unconcerned with its harsh legal consequences. In fact, Americans surveyed by AAA said that texting and driving posed a greater hazard on the road than pot-impaired drivers.
Despite evidence to the contrary, stoned drivers say that pot does not lead to unsafe driving. The study also reported that a full 13 percent of stoned drivers describe their illegal habit as only ‘slightly dangerous’ or ‘not dangerous’ at all. Despite the perception of their cognitive abilities, evidenced-backed research shows significant impairments in a driver’s ability while under the influence of cannabis. Marijuana impairs motor coordination, reaction time, and personal judgment. Unsurprisingly, an impaired driver is a dangerous one. Stoned drivers are almost twice as likely to be in a car accident than their sober counterparts.
Unconcerned with the dangers of driving while stoned, pot-impaired drivers also seem unconcerned with the illegality of drugged driving. According to the survey by AAA, a full 70 percent of drivers who get behind the wheel while high say it’s ‘unlikely’ they will be arrested. According to experts, Americans feel brazen about driving while high because there is no “breathalyzer” for marijuana. Currently, a blood test is the only way authorities can determine if a driver used marijuana. This blood test is almost useless, though, because marijuana can stay in a person’s bloodstream for days and weeks after using the drug.
Unable to determine when the driver used cannabis, law enforcement agents rely on field sobriety tests – unscientific and much less precise. While police departments across the country rush to train their agents on identifying drugged drivers and performing sobriety tests, the New York Post describes the methods as “far from refined.” Accordingly, public safety experts explain that scientific ‘standard of impairment’ – such as BAC for alcohol – will be necessary to end the scourge of drugged driving. On this point, public safety experts say ‘the science is evolving.’
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