Many people think that driving high on marijuana is safe. In fact, studies reveal that the majority of people think that driving while high on marijuana is not a serious problem. Is driving high dangerous? Let’s take a look.
The Effects of Marijuana
To understand how marijuana could affect a driver, let’s take a look at how marijuana can affect any user. Marijuana use can have a number of effects on the mind and body of its user. After consumption, the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is absorbed in the body right away and can affect overall function. Effects of marijuana (or THC) on the body include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased chance of lung cancer
- Rapid or forced breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Dry Mouth
While marijuana has those unpleasant effects on the body, the psychological effects are even more important when it comes to driving. The effects of marijuana on the mind can vary among individuals, but often include:
- Random thinking
- Increased distractibility
- Impaired decision-making
- Time distortion
Considering these effects of marijuana, one can easily see that driving while high may not be a safe choice after all. Driving involves making quick decisions and multitasking, so being easily distracted, anxious and forgetful certainly won’t be helpful in maintaining road safety.
How Does Marijuana Affect Driving?
Marijuana can affect driving in a number of ways. Marijuana can affect motion detection, tracking, decision-making, motor coordination and the ability to multitask. All of these are necessary skills while driving, even on familiar roads and short distances. There is no way to predict the activity of other drivers or animals to ensure that every drive is calm and uninterrupted while high on marijuana.
The effects of marijuana on driving increase with the level of marijuana in the system. In other words, the amount of THC in the system matters to road safety. For example, someone who smokes one-third of a joint is considered less at-risk than someone who smokes an entire joint.
However, THC content is measured through the blood. It can be tricky to measure because long-term, regular marijuana users have THC in their system constantly, even when not high. The bottom line: The more THC in the system, the more likely it is for an accident to occur.
The Dangers of Driving High
No matter what comparisons people make or ideas they have, it is more dangerous to drive while high than it is to drive sober. Driving sober is always the safe, legal choice and the best way to prevent on-the-road fatalities.
Alcohol Versus Marijuana When Driving
It is common for people to justify driving high on marijuana by saying it’s safer than driving drunk. While driving drunk is in no way a safe choice, driving while high on marijuana isn’t either. Both driving drunk and driving high increase someone’s chances of having a car accident.
Similar to marijuana, the level of alcohol in the system increases along with the chances of automobile fatalities and accidents. Combining both alcohol and marijuana in the system raises the risk for accident even more.
There are numerous recent studies showing that alcohol is harmful to one’s ability to drive, but not nearly as many studies focus on marijuana. This is because studying the effects of marijuana on driving scientifically can be difficult. Because THC blood levels cannot be measured on-site at an accident or shortly after (like a breathalyzer), it is not as foolproof a system.
Additionally, because some people do have constant THC levels in their blood, THC does not signify that someone is high or impaired. However, studies have found that the THC content in the blood after smoking one joint causes more severe impairment than a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 — the legal limit when driving.
Driving under the influence of any drug, alcohol or marijuana increases the risk for accident and therefore, fatalities.
Is Driving While High Dangerous?
Driving high is absolutely dangerous, but it is also completely preventable. Studies support that driving while high and drunk is the most harmful to driving ability, but driving while in either state or the other also increases the chance of accident. The best way to prevent an accident is to drive while sober, alert and ready to adapt to unexpected disruptions.
Marijuana can affect some of the key mechanisms we need to drive safely, including coordination and reaction time, so sober driving is always best.
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