For many people, especially stoned high school seniors, there’s nothing wrong with taking a bong hit or two and hitting the roads. Some classic defenses of it…
“Hey man, I just drive slower…”
“Bro, it makes me think more. I’m aware of everything…”
“Duuuude, I’m only going up the street to Taco Bell…”
All, solid responses, but none of them give any definitive proof about whether the roads are actually safer with more stoners out there or not. Well, with the legalization of weed and the rapidly changing culture, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) did their best to answer this question by conducting a 6 month long survey in Virginia Beach.
According to their results, the NHTSA has found out A LOT about the current integrity of our roads. In the recently released report, the NHTSA states that the number of drivers testing positive for illegal drugs has skyrocketed in recent years. No surprise there, huh.
Between the weed and our national craving for Benzos and Xanax, the NHTSA study actually found that the number of weekend nighttime drivers with illegal drugs or medicines in their system has risen from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2014. Singling out marijuana, the figures become even higher as the study concludes that the number of drivers with marijuana in their system has shot up by nearly 50 percent!
Meanwhile, the study also found that the number of drunk drivers on the road has significantly dipped in recent years, dropping by 30 percent since 2007 and an astonishing 80 percent since 1973.
NHTSA Administrator, Mark Rosekind, says,”America made drunk driving a national issue and while there is no victory as long as a single American dies in an alcohol-related crash, a one-third reduction in alcohol use over just seven years shows how a focused effort and cooperation among the federal government, states and communities, law enforcement, safety advocates and industry can make an enormous difference.”
“At the same time, the latest Roadside Survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety. The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes.”
The NHTSA study also attempted to assess just how much of an impact that marijuana had on drivers. While proving not to be nearly as dangerous as alcohol, the NHTSA did find a correlation between marijuana usage and an increased chance of accident.
However, the organization did admit “that the increased risk may be due in part because marijuana users are more likely to be in groups at higher risk of crashes. In particular, marijuana users are more likely to be young men – a group already at high risk.”
Still, Jeff Michael– the NHTSA’s associate administrator for research and program development– says, “Drivers should never get behind the wheel impaired, and we know that marijuana impairs judgment, reaction times and awareness. These findings highlight the importance of research to better understand how marijuana use affects drivers so states and communities can craft the best safety policies.”
This particular study was conducted in Virginia Beach as the data was collected over a 20 month stretch. Throughout that time, NHTSA officials gathered information from more than 3,000 drivers that were involved in collisions and another 6,000 people that were not involved any kind of incident.
As far as conclusions go, Mark Rosekind says, “Researchers have developed a deep body of knowledge about the link between drinking, driving and risk. We know drunk driving kills.”
“The combined message of these two surveys is that our work to understand and combat drunk driving is paying off, but that we have much to learn about how illegal drugs and prescription medicines affect highway safety – and that developing that knowledge is urgent, because more and more drivers have these drugs in their systems.”
In order to enhance their study, the NHTSA plans to next test in Washington state, the land of ganja freedom. It’ll be interesting to see what they find out there.