Northwestern Press

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Guest View

Thursday, June 27, 2019 by The Press in Opinion

Americans don’t think they will get arrested for driving high

Nearly 70 percent of Americans think it is unlikely a driver will get caught by police for driving while high on marijuana, according to a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Survey.

Moreover, an estimated 14.8 million drivers report getting behind the wheel within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days.

The impairing effects of marijuana are usually experienced within the first one to four hours after using the drug. (1)

And, marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash. (2)

“Despite marijuana’s effect on a driver’s judgment and reaction times, many drivers don’t view driving high the same way they view behaviors such as drunk or distracted driving,” says Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs for AAA East Central. “This misunderstanding can have deadly consequences, and motorists should familiarize themselves with the dangers of driving high.”

In the AAA Foundation survey, 7 percent of Americans reported they approved of driving after recently using marijuana — more than other dangerous behaviors such as alcohol-impaired driving (1.6 percent), drowsy driving (1.7 percent), and prescription drug-impaired driving (3 percent).

Other survey findings show:

·Millennials (nearly 14 percent) are most likely to report driving within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days, followed by Generation Z (10 percent).

·Men (8 percent) are more likely than women (5 percent) to report driving shortly after using marijuana in the past 30 days.

As marijuana legalization becomes more prevalent, law enforcement officials are getting more sophisticated in their methods for identifying marijuana-impaired drivers.

Programs such as the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement and the 50-State Drug Evaluation and Classification Program were developed to train law enforcement officers around the country to more effectively recognize drug-impaired driving.

There are currently more than 87,000 ARIDE and 8,300 DECP trained officers patrolling U.S. roads.

Additionally, the number of trained Drug Recognition Experts has increased by 30 percent since 2013.

These officers report marijuana is the most frequently identified drug category.

Since 2015, the number of drivers arrested by DREs for using marijuana increased 20 percent. (3)

AAA recommends all motorists avoid driving while impaired by marijuana or any other drug (including alcohol) to avoid arrest and keep the roads safe.

Just because a drug is legal does not mean it is safe to use while operating a motor vehicle.

Drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired put themselves and others at risk.

AAAs recommend the following tips to avoid driving impaired:

·Make transportation arrangements, such as: Designating a driver, taking a cab or a ride share, using local public transit;

·Rent a hotel room or stay overnight at a friend’s home;

·If hosting a party, offer nonalcoholic drinks to designated drivers; and

·Take car keys away from friends and relatives who are impaired.


1) MacDonald S. Cannabis Crashes: Myths & Truths 2019

2) Hall W. What has research over the past two decades revealed about the adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use? Addiction 2015; 110: 19-35.

3) 2017 Annual DECP Report — International Association of Chiefs of Police


Editor’s note: AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 79 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.