Driving while intoxicated is a well known way to cause an accident on the road. Although not as common, you can be charged with that offense for more than just drinking alcohol. DUI/DWI violations can be for anything else that causes impairment, such as drugs (whether they are legal or not), including marijuana.
However, over twenty years of studies have shown that marijuana smokers may actually be getting a bad rap. Research suggests that cannabis users may actually have fewer accidents than other drivers. There have been several studies conducted over the past twenty years and each one of them has revealed that using marijuana actually has a very minor, if any, effect on the ability of a person to operate a moving vehicle.
Marijuana And Alcohol Users Use Products Differently
A study was done comparing drivers who had been drinking alcohol and those who had been using marijuana. It reached the conclusion that marijuana users were in fewer auto accidents.
Why is this so?
Researchers believe it is because of the way people consume the two products. Alcohol drinkers oftentimes do their drinking out in public and then try to drive home. Cannabis smokers usually smoke at home and do not attempt try to drive, which means they don’t even have the chance to be involved in a car accident.
Research also shows that while drunk drivers usually drive faster and don’t understand that their driving skills have been impaired, the drivers that have been smoking marijuana actually tend to drive slower and stay away from risky behavior.
Studies like this one, which look at the impact marijuana use has on driving, have been done all over the world – from Canada to Australia to Europe to the US. Funnily enough, they all seem to reach the same conclusion: marijuana users are safer drivers. Continue reading below to hear more about these studies.
Results Of Major Studies On Marijuana Use And Driving
Research from the Netherlands conducted at the Dutch Institute for Road Safety Research showed that drivers with blood alcohol content’s (BAC) of 0.5% to 0.8% had accident rates 5X higher than that of non-impaired drivers. If the BAC was higher than that, the results showed that accidents were up to 15X more likely to occur. When testing drivers who consumed marijuana, however, the data actually showed these drivers posed no accident risk at all!
Studies from around the world show similar results. Using these findings, we have developed a list of reasons why marijuana users are actually safe drivers:
Top 10 Reasons Marijuana Users Are Safer Drivers
- Drivers who had been using marijuana were found to drive slower, according to a 1983 study done by U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). At the time, this was seen as a factor in the favor of marijuana advocacy groups, since drivers who drank alcohol usually drove faster and more aggressively, leading to more accidents.
- Marijuana users were able to drive straight and not have any trouble staying in their own lanes when driving on the highway, according to a NHTSA study done in 1993 in the Netherlands. The study determined also that the use of marijuana had very little affect on the person’s overall driving ability.
- Drivers who had smoked marijuana were shown to be less likely to try and pass other cars on the road. They were also more likely to drive at a consistent speed, according to a University of Adelaide study done in Australia. The study showed that marijuana posed no danger (unless the drivers had also been drinking alcohol).
- Drivers high on marijuana were also shown to be less likely to drive in a reckless fashion, according to a study done in 2000 in the UK by the UK Transport Research Lab. The study was done using driving simulators and actually was originally hoping to show the dangers of marijuana, but instead it showed the exact opposite and confirmed that these drivers were actually safer than some of the other drivers on the road.
- States that allow the legal use of marijuana for medical reasons are noticing less traffic fatalities. For example, in Colorado and Montana there has been a 9% drop in traffic fatalities and a 5% drop in beer sales. The conclusion was that marijuana use actually has helped save lives. Medical marijuana is allowed in 30 states in the U.S. as of 2018.
- Low doses of marijuana in a person’s system was found by tests in Canada in 2002 to have little effect on a person’s ability to drive a car, and that these drivers were in much fewer car crashes than alcohol drinkers.
- Most marijuana smokers have fewer crashes because they don’t even drive in the first place and just stay home, thus concluded more than one of these tests on pot smoking and driving.
- Marijuana smokers are thought to be more “sober” drivers. Traffic information from 13 states where medical marijuana is legal showed that these drivers were actually safer and more careful than many other drivers on the road. These studies were confirmed by the University of Colorado and Montana State University when they compared the relationship between legal marijuana use and deaths in traffic accidents in those states. Daniel Rees, a researcher involved in that study, said, “drunk drivers take more risk, they tend to go faster. They don’t realize how impaired they are. People who are under the influence of marijuana drive slower, they don’t take as many risks.”
Another study done by The Truth About Cars showed that traffic deaths fell nine percent in states with legal use of medical marijuana. (To view our study on Drunk Driving vs. Alcohol-Related Traffic Deaths, click here.)
- Multiple studies show that marijuana smokers are less likely to be risk takers than those that use alcohol. The studies concluded that marijuana calmed people down and made them actually pay more attention to their abilities. These tests and research studies showed that while some people think marijuana is a major cause of traffic problems, in reality it may make marijuana users even safer when they get behind the wheel.
- Drivers who smoke marijuana were shown to drive at the speed limit (over long distances), which made them less likely to cause or have crashes.
No matter what country these studies were conducted in, they all seemed to reach the same conclusion – driving after smoking marijuana is not that dangerous. Even so, insurance companies in the United States will penalize drivers with higher premiums if they have been convicted of driving with marijuana in their system. The law can also be very harsh on “marijuana DUI” convictions as well.
The bottom line remains that while driving under the influence of alcohol has been shown to cause countless problems, accidents, injuries, and fatalities, marijuana use has not. In fact, it makes drivers pay more attention, drive slower, and perhaps even keeps them glued-to-the couch instead of out on the road!
So, the bottom line is that while alcohol has been shown in every single incident to have major problems and to have caused countless traffic crashes and fatalities, pot smoking overall has had none of these issues and in fact may make drivers pay more attention, drive slower and straighter and perhaps even stay home so they can’t be in an accident at all!