We’ve discussed the dangers of smoking marijuana and getting behind the wheel in some of our previous blogs. But now, apparently, there is concrete evidence illustrating just how dangerous smoking and driving can be. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently released some interesting findings, which point to higher accident rates in states where weed use is decriminalized.
The study compared a handful of states who do allow for marijuana use (specifically Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) versus those who do not (Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming). Within that set, the “weed regions” saw car crashes increase by roughly six percent over a one year period.
After the data was released, the Institute’s president, David Harkey, emphasized that law enforcement officials should definitely take notice. He did concede, however, that weed-related drug tests aren’t as accurate as alcohol breathalyzers. Cannabis has been known to stay in people’s systems for as long as 30 days, which poses questions as to “how high” some of these test subjects were.
“States exploring legalizing marijuana should consider this effect on highway safety,” Harkey told TheFix.com. “Though there is some difficulty in isolating the specific effects of marijuana impairment on crash risk, the evidence is growing that legalizing its use increases crashes.”
Not coincidentally, these findings were issued just weeks before key elections are taking place. In early November, states like Michigan and North Dakota are voting on whether marijuana use should be decriminalized there.
In our opinion, this only adds to the argument that smoking and driving do not mix. We know that marijuana does not tend to get categorized as a heavy inebriant, like alcohol or cocaine. But it does impair judgement and could create some real risks on the road. It has also been shown to have addictive tendencies and potentially work as a gateway drug into harder dependencies.
What this story has done (which we are happy to see) is create conversation starters about this topic. We know there are quite a lot of differing opinions on the dangers of marijuana smoking, but having the dialogue is important. And, to their credit, the University of California at San Diego has taken notice as well. They too are conducting studies on the effects of marijuana and certain dangers (such as operating a vehicle) that are associated with it.