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AAA Foundation reports millions of Americans drive within one hour after using marijuana

A rather astonishing finding from a recent AAA Foundation study was that approximately 70% of Americans do not believe a driver high on marijuana will be stopped by police. Approximately 14.8 million drivers admitted to using marijuana and driving within one hour of use.

Other important statistics emerging from the report include the following.

  • 7% reported it was okay to drive after using marijuana, compared with 1.6% for driving under the influence of alcohol, 1.7% for drowsy driving, and 3% driving under the influence of impairing prescription drugs.

  • Nearly 14% of Millennials are the most likely to drive one hour after marijuana use, followed by 10% of Generation Z.

  • Men (8%) are more likely than women (5%) to report driving shortly after marijuana use.

This is an ominous set of statistics, as experts say that those using marijuana have reaction-time and judgment impairments for up to four hours after use, and are twice as likely to be involved in a car crash.

Tom Woodward, coordinator of Maryland’s drug recognition expert program said it’s just as dangerous to driver under the influence of marijuana as it is to drive under the influence of alcohol and some other drugs, like opioids, even though the impairments are not the same. However, the impairment is real and said, “But because it’s different from alcohol, people don’t view it as being bad.”

Woodward said that marijuana-related car crashes in his state nearly doubled from 34 to 60, from 2017 to 2018, accounting for 32% of all drug-related crashes during that time. The fear is that as more and more states legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, these numbers will increase all over the country.

Pointing out that he is not surprised by any of the statistics, Woodward said that people’s awareness about driving drunk has increased significantly, after educating people about the dangers of the behavior, beginning 40 years ago. He added that he hoped it wouldn’t take that long to educate the public about the dangers of driving while high on marijuana.

AAA Director of Traffic Safety and Advocacy Jake Nelson said, “Any driver who gets behind the wheel high can be arrested and prosecuted. Law enforcement officials are getting more sophisticated in their methods for identifying marijuana-impaired drivers and the consequences are not worth the risk.”

The conclusion here is obvious. It is not safe to drive while impaired by marijuana, any more than it is to drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Just because alcohol and certain drugs are legal, doesn’t mean you should drive while using them.

Remember that in Wisconsin, if you use cannabis medically or for recreational use (which is still illegal in this state), neverget behind the wheel of a car under the influence.

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