You’re leaving the bar and about to get behind the wheel. You’ve had two drinks and it’s only been an hour since you finished your last beer. You do some quick math and decide to give it another hour before driving home. For many of us who drink, we know that it takes about one to two hours to process a standard drink. But when it comes to cannabis, the same rules don’t necessarily apply.
Marijuana And Driving
Recent reports indicate that Canadian drivers killed in accidents tested positive for drugs (40%) more than they test positive for alcohol (33%). This isn’t to say most drivers in fatal accidents have had cannabis in their systems, but it is important to realize that cannabis impairs drivers—perhaps more so than we realize.
While the impact on motor skills and reaction time may not seem as profound as it would after a few drinks, drivers under the influence of marijuana may not be as alert as they may think they are. An American study last year indicated that around 48% of cannabis users thought it was safe to drive when high. That number is ironically compared to the 67% of non-users who would woefully disagree.
In some ways, the jury is still out when it comes to stoned driving. Everybody is different, every strain is different, every smoking method is different. Some studies indicate that high drivers are actually more cautious. Others report impairment when it comes to every single aspect of driving. A recent study, however, has proven even more damning for stoners who boast “perfect” driving abilities.
The Impact Of Cannabis On Sober Driving
A study published just a few weeks ago might come as a shock to those proud of their vehicular navigation after ripping a bong. Turns out, cannabis consumption may mean worse driving skills—even while completely sober.
The study was published by a Harvard Medical School Affiliate and lead author Staci Gruber is one of the world’s most foremost experts in the cognitive effects of cannabis. Using a driving simulator, both using and non-using subjects were tested on driving metrics like pedestrians hit, collisions, missed stops at red lights, centerline crossings, and speeding. Subjects who did use marijuana were not permitted to consume it for at least 12 hours before the study.
The results show that heavy marijuana users performed poorly when compared to non-users. They sped, missed red lights, and hit more pedestrians. Subjects who reported regular cannabis consumption before age 16 performed especially poorly. Keep in mind that no one was under the influence, yet marijuana-using subjects were still associated with worse driving performance compared to those who didn’t use.
Does this mean you should immediately sell your car and buy a bus pass? Not necessarily. The number of participants in the study was relatively small (44 people). Also, people are impacted by cannabis in very different ways. Where it’s easier to say that two drinks impair most men and women in a specific way, that’s much harder to do with, say, one joint. But you should keep this study in mind. Even if you think you’re an awesome stoned driver, science may say otherwise.
For more around cannabis and driving, check out our article on the upcoming cannabis breathalyzer.