The Dangers of Driving While High
By Becky Perlaky
November 19, 2019
There are now 10 states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow recreational or medicinal marijuana use. More are likely to follow.This trend is based on a number of factors, including the perception that the risks presented by marijuana are no worse than, and in someways lower than, alcohol. But drivers should absolutely not assume there are no risks to driving while high. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse flatly states, “Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.” If you have marijuana in your system, you present an increased danger to yourself and to other drivers and pedestrians.
Research shows that having THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects, in a driver’s system reduces their motor skills, lane tracking and cognitive functions, as well as the ability to multitask, a critical skill needed behind the wheel.
In addition to the safety risk, operating under the influence of marijuana also puts you at additional legal risk. Driving impaired by any substance, alcohol or drugs, is against the law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Even in states where marijuana laws have changed, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of the drug. Only Colorado has an acceptable THC limit, similar to the blood-alcohol-level measure used to assess intoxication. However, in Colorado, this position does not apply to regulated safety-sensitive positions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Across the rest of the country, legislators are playing catch up with new, more-lax marijuana laws. We still don’t know how severely marijuana affects driving skills. Some states are considering standards like Colorado’s for an acceptable THC limit. But those states are struggling to come up with appropriate limits. And then there’s the challenge of an easy, accurate and affordable way to assess the amount of THC in a driver’s system, something comparable to the breathalyzer.
For now, though, the plain facts are that it is illegal in all but one state to drive with ANY level of THC in your system and that your driving skills are impaired while high. As a slogan from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration succinctly put it: “If you feel different, you drive different.” When it comes to driving under the influence of marijuana, the difference is that you are a more-dangerous driver, both to yourself and others.
KAG is committed to the safety of our team and the people they share the road with. Like FMCSA, we recognize the hazards of performing safety-sensitive activities under the influence of any substance, including marijuana. While legalization has occurred in some states, FMCSA maintains its position related to commercial motor-vehicle drivers. At KAG, we have a zero-tolerance policy and continue to share information to help drivers understand the regulatory requirements, the hazards of substance use and the consequences of substance-related violations.
Note:The NIDA quote is from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/does-marijuana-use-affect-driving
EVP Safety at KAG