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Risks of Driving on Marijuana

When the topic of driving on marijuana arises, people tend to be split in their opinion on the matter. 


The public often has a divided stance with driving on marijuana since driving drunk is commonly seen as far more dangerous. This idea that people believe driving on marijuana is more dangerous is expressed in a variety of subcultures such as standup comedy. 

In his first standup comedy special on Comedy Central, Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson performed a routine giving reasons why he loves driving on cannabis. Davidson’s perspective was validated by a laughing crowd, an example that serves to reflect the public’s mixed feelings on the matter. 

While there are plenty of jokes to laugh at in Pete Davidson’s standup, driving on marijuana carries risks. There’s something to say about the fact reported by NIH that cannabis is the most frequently found drug in people during car crashes, both fatal and non-fatal. 

Risks of Driving on Marijuana

Let’s go over some statistics to gain a clearer perspective on the possible risks of driving after consuming cannabis. 

Driving on Marijuana Statistics

The NCSL began one of their most recent and highly ranked online articles stating that 12.6% of nighttime drivers between 2013-2014 tested positive for THC. 

One argument you’ll hear from people who think it’s fine to drive on marijuana is that they aren’t negatively affected when driving on cannabis. While some people can maintain their driving performance during the effects of marijuana, others have more trouble. 

When you get several weekend drivers under the influence of cannabis that’s as high as 12.6%, there’s bound to be a percentage within that group that suffers from a reduced ability to drive. We can strongly assert the previous statement as accurate. The rate of drivers killed in car crashes that test positive for marijuana doubled during 2007-2015—a timeframe that lines up with the 12.6% statistic during 2013-2014. 

While driving on marijuana might not be a challenge for you, it may be a challenge for someone else who reacts differently to THC. 

THC in Drivers

Part of what makes accurately measuring the effects of THC in drivers a challenge is a fact that THC can be in a person’s body fluids for days or even weeks after use. 

What we need to try and study is what happens when people are actively driving on THC. A startling statistic reflects that drivers with higher levels of THC in their bloodstream are four times as likely on average to cause an accident. When alcohol is combined with THC, these numbers naturally increase. 

So what’s the bottom line here?

What’s a go-to number we can draw that paints an overall picture of what happens when a person drives on marijuana?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reflects that the risk of being associated with a crash after cannabis was notably higher. In some studies, the risk of being involved in a car accident doubled after cannabis use. 

Facts and Fiction About Driving on Marijuana 

After providing some general statistics to better understand how people are affected when driving on marijuana, let’s bust some myths and establish some facts relating to the matter. 

Driving on Marijuana Is Better Than Driving on Alcohol

The problem with the above heading is that people are trying to justify an unsafe behavior by comparing it to another risky behavior. 

People shouldn’t be asking if driving on marijuana is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol. Instead, the public should isolate the behavior of driving after consuming cannabis and evaluate potential problems that can occur. 

Even if you compare the two behaviors of driving drunk

or stoned on cannabis, it’s challenging to establish that driving on marijuana is safer than driving on alcohol with 1 in 5 crash victims under the age of 18 testing positive for marijuana. 

Lots of People Drive on Marijuana

The statement listed in the heading is 100% true. 

CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) conducted an anonymous online survey asking people how often they’ve driven under the effects of marijuana. 

Here’s what they found

  • 69% of cannabis users reported driving under the influence of cannabis at least once in the past year
  • Over 50% of people surveyed claimed to have driven on marijuana frequently in the past month
  • Almost 30% of people in the survey admit to driving on cannabis daily or near-daily basis

Driving on cannabis isn’t safe just because a sizable number of people have admitted to the practice. The previously listed facts involving car crashes and marijuana are still valid. 

Some people might read these statistics and note that the numbers are higher since the survey took place in a state where recreational marijuana is legal. 

While states with marijuana legalization have higher rates of people driving under the influence of marijuana, there should be an equal emphasis on safe driving practices nationwide as more states begin to legalize cannabis. 

Dangers of Driving on Marijuana 

Here’s a quick list summarizing the risks of driving on marijuana: 

  • Reduction in reaction time 
  • Altered coordination 
  • Teens who have less experience driving are more affected 
  • More difficult to maintain concentration 
  • Tiredness 
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