I came across an article today while doing my rounds, and it caught my eye:
A recent study by the National Institute of Health put 85 subjects (50 men and 35 women) in driving simulators, some having smoked pot and others a placebo cigarette, to see if marijuana uniquely affected men or women while driving. The study found there was no difference between the two sexes. The part I was interested in was in crash avoidance and basic driving, the stoned group also showed no difference in driving performance and performed as well as the group that received the placebo. The study goes on to state that the stoned group drove slightly slower when distracted, suggesting they were using “additional compensatory skills.”
This study intrigued me because I have been hearing so much lately about how terrible drugged driving is and how it will be just like having twice as many drunk drivers on the road if marijuana is legalized. So I decided to try and find more studies like this that compared driving completely sober to driving under the influence of marijuana. I found two different types:
Some of the studies directly compared marijuana to alcohol and the affect they both have on one’s motor skills. In every study I could find, the subjects that were under the influence of marijuana were much more competent drivers that the ones who had consumed alcohol. This information is really common sense to those of use who either consume marijuana or are constantly around people who consume it, but it’s obvious the rest of the world needs more proof.
Most of the studies, however, just compared the affects marijuana had on someone’s driving ability. As I stated at the beginning of the article, MARIJUANA DOES AFFECT DRIVING ABILITY and in no way am I claiming the opposite, but these studies were full of generalizations and doublespeak. Most studies had conclusions writen like this (quoted from www.drugabuse.gov): “Evidence from both real and simulated driving studies indicates that marijuana can negatively affect a driver’s attentiveness, perception of time and speed, and the ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences.” Now, I don’t argue with that at all, but I guarantee that a study about “tired drivers” or “drivers listening to loud music” or “driving in the rain” would yield identical results.
What I am trying to accomplish here is separate the risks of drugged driving and drunk driving. In no way is driving under the influence of marijuana as dangerous or debilitating as driving drunk. Driving while stoned isn’t a good idea, it’s just like driving while sleepy or driving while on the phone; it’s dangerous and it does affect your concentration. Driving drunk, however, is just outright stupid. I have a handful of friends that have driven drunk before, and some of them have gotten into accidents because of it. However, most of my friends LIVE stoned and marijuana has never hindered their ability to get 4.0’s, maintain a job, or safely drive an automobile.
Stop comparing drugged drivers to drunk drivers!