Driving Stoned Not as Dangerous as Driving Drunk, Federal Study Says

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that motorists who drive after using marijuana are significantly less dangerous than those who consume alcohol before getting behind the wheel. In a new study released this month, the NHTSA adds scientific evidence to the ongoing debate on driving under the influence of marijuana.

Here are some of the NHTSA findings:

  • With adjustments for age, gender, and alcohol use, motorists who tested positive for marijuana were no more likely to crash than drivers who had not used any alcohol or drugs before driving.
  • For a number of legal and illegal drugs - including painkillers, sedatives, stimulants, and anti-depressants - there is no statistically significant change in crash risks for drivers who use them before getting behind the wheel.
  • Alcohol use - specifically at .05 BAC or above - increases the risk of an accident by nearly seven times.

What’s so significant about the new study is that it shows that the presence of THC - marijuana’s active ingredient - in a person’s system is not an accurate indicator that they are “high” or that their driving abilities are impaired at that time. The NHTSA stated:

"At the current time, specific drug concentration levels cannot be reliably equated with a specific degree of driver impairment."

The issue of not finding a reliable way to determine how high is too high to drive - as well as how impaired a marijuana user really is - has been at the core of the debate surrounding marijuana legalization and marijuana DUI laws. Much of the problem stems from the fact that marijuana isn’t processed by the body in the same way that alcohol is. A regular marijuana user, for example, could have measurable amounts of THC in their system days or even weeks after lasting using pot.

It’s important to note that despite these new findings, using marijuana before getting on the road can very well be dangerous - and there’s a good deal of evidence that marijuana can impair driving skills. It’s also still against the law.

The important thing this study helps us understand is that there is a real need for better and more accurate standards and testing equipment when it comes to marijuana DUIs. This is especially true at a time when data, studies, and popular culture show us that more people are using marijuana, and in favor of legalizing it.

If you have questions about driving under the influence of marijuana and how an Orange County DUI lawyer from the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. may be able to help you, contact our firm today for a free case review.

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