New study claims 1 in 9 US drivers found using cannabis before driving with kids

Published May 9, 2019 12:21 p.m. ET
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

With all the dangers we face every time we decide to drive on the roads, it makes sense that so many people in regions with access to legal weed are concerned about how many of our citizens are smoking marijuana and driving. This most recent cannabis research includes only a small amount of people located in Washington State, but it gives a deeper look into what’s really in the system of anyone who is getting behind the wheel in America.

The study

This latest cannabis research was released in April of 2019 by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Researchers stood roadside and conducted a series of stops that included the use of a new type of weed breathalyzer that was unable to measure the amount of THC in a person’s system but could detect its presence in someone who had consumed any cannabis products in the last 24 hours. As well as a blood testing kit, and saliva sample that were both much more precise, and sent away to a third party for further analysis. Both THC and alcohol were sought out for comparison. Altogether over 2000 drivers were stopped and willingly agreed to be tested for research purposes from several different points on the side of a highway in Washington State. After seven days of compiling essential data and waiting an entire year to do it again, specialists were finally able to comb over the information which is what led to these most recent findings.

The results

What surprised researchers the most, is that those with children under 18 years of age in the vehicle were much less likely to have been drinking alcohol, but drivers who have been enjoying cannabis were an entirely different story. Only 2% of people who tested positive or over 0.2 blood alcohol level has kids in the backseat, while 4.5% tested positive with no youth in tow. Just over 14% of drivers who tested positive for THC had children in their vehicles, and 17% of those with no kids had also consumed cannabis before their journey. Researchers also found that all participants believed that alcohol would affect the quality and safety of their driving, while over 40% of drivers who used marijuana would admit to a decline in their driving abilities while high.

In conclusion

Though it is true that some of us have a higher tolerance level than others, driving while high isn’t ever a good idea, and that is especially true for new users. Cannabis is a mind-altering substance that carries the potential to cause motor impairment, hinder reaction time, and inhibits decision making skills that are necessary to avoid a collision while driving a one-ton box of metal hurling towards others going at top speeds. There are not currently any stringent THC levels to maintain due to the unavailability of the technology to test for such things roadside. However, it is recommended that anyone who consumes marijuana of any type should wait at least 12 hours for the effects to subside before trying to drive.

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