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Hand on steering wheel while outside the windshield is blurred view due to stoned driving.

Stoned Driving: High Risks with No Reward

Just like drinking and driving, driving stoned is just as dangerous and can be deadly

You’ve heard it all of your life: “Don’t drink and drive.” It’s been the main focus for years for many different parent groups, student groups, and law enforcement. And it’s good advice! Alcohol-impaired-driving kills over 10,000 people every year in America. That’s an average of 28 people a day who lose their lives due to something preventable.

But there’s another threat on the road lately that seems to be seen as less dangerous than drinking and driving, even though it’s not. Yeah, we’re talking about driving while high.

Drugged driving is on the rise because of a few different reasons. Legal marijuana has allowed for both more accessibility as well as higher concentrations of marijuana products to be legally purchased and consumed. This relaxation of local laws (remember: it’s still illegal on a federal level) has created an environment where marijuana consumption is more tolerated both inside and outside of the house. Marijuana is now being treated similarly as alcohol and is more widespread in social environments. Of course, after the social engagement is over, that’s where the danger really starts.

Many people who engage in drugged driving claim that it either doesn’t affect their driving skills or – even worse – makes them a better, more attentive driver. Do you really believe that? Based on everything we know about being high, is someone who is under the influence of marijuana going to be a better driver? It seems like a driver who has difficulty concentrating, distorted perceptions of time, and poor memory probably isn’t as good of a driver as they think they are. Driving requires route planning, risk analysis, and decision making…all things that stoned drivers aren’t prepared to do.

And the facts actually back up how dangerous driving while high really is! An Australian study on traffic fatalities found that drivers who used marijuana were 2.7 times more likely to have caused the crash compared to sober drivers. Driving while high is dangerous and people do die because of it. When marijuana became legal in Washington state, the amount of traffic fatalities due to marijuana doubled in only a year. 

We know now more than ever that stoned driving can be deadly. It’s up to all of us to treat drugged driving the exact same as we treat drinking and driving. Someone who has used marijuana recently should never be behind the wheel. If available, a sober driver should take them home, and if there isn’t one available, stay put and stay off the road!

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