U.S.: NHTSA Study Concludes Marijuana Doesn't Increase Car Crashes


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has concluded that smoking marijuana before driving doesn't make you more likely to get into a car crash, especially when compared to drinking before driving.

The study looked at 9,000 drivers over the past year to examine the impact of cannabis on driving, reports Carimah Townes at ThinkProgress. Although one-quarter of marijuana users were more likely to be involved in a car crash than people who did not toke, once the gender, age, and race/ethnicity of cannabis users were considered, it turned out that these differences actually contributed more to crash risk. Younger drivers crashed more than older ones, and men had more crashes than women.

Drivers who consumed alcohol, of course, were clearly more likely to crash. Those with a 0.08 percent breath alcohol level crashed four times more than sober drivers, and drivers with a level of 0.15 percent were 12 times more likely to crash.

Testing positive for marijuana was defined in the study as having delta-9 tetahydrocannabinol (THC) in the system.

However, marijuana does affect drivers' senses, according to the study, and the number of drivers with THC in their systems in on the rise. "Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness," said Jeff Michael, director of the Office of Impaired Driving and Occupant Protection.

Sensationalistic media reports -- and those who support the "per se" 5-nanogram-per-milliliter blood THC cutoff points for impaired driving, which is part of the marijuana legalization law in Washington state -- have hyped the idea that "drugged driving" would wreak havoc on the roadways now that cannabis is more accepted. But highway fatalities have reached near-record lows since Colorado legalized marijuana, and have also gone down in medical marijuana states, reports Toke Signals.