Deadly behind the wheel

Not as bad as alcohol is hardly a selling point, nor is it much consolation

The research on stoned driving and the reports from states with medical marijuana laws make it clear, when it comes to driving, marijuana poses all the same problems that alcohol does. A research study by the University of Auckland compared a random sample of drivers with people who had either been killed or hospitalized by car accidents. Regular and heavy pot-smokers were 9.5 times more likely to get into a serious accident as non-users. Another study looked at patients in a hospital trauma unit who had been in car or motorcycle accidents. Fifteen percent had been using marijuana alone and an additional 17 percent had both THC and alcohol in their blood streams.  A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked only at impaired drivers who were not using alcohol. They found that 45 percent of people stopped for reckless driving tested positive for marijuana.  A significant percent of impaired drivers and serious accidents, including fatal accidents, are caused by marijuana. Part of the problem is that so many people drive stoned. One study found that 16 percent of adolescents drove within one hour after smoking pot. Also, while there’s been a huge education campaign against drunk driving, the pro-marijuana groups often insist thatmarijuana makes people safer drivers.

Marijuana advocates often insist that marijuana never killed anyone. One look at the stoned driving statistics should make it clear that’s not true. They also frequently argue that marijuana is safer than alcohol. But judging by these statistics, it’s possible that the main reason alcohol kills more people on the highway is because it is more widely available. Laws that make marijuana more widely available could even the gap between the two drugs.

In fact, that has happened. When Montana first passed its law, very few people were prescribed, or recommended, medical marijuana. Then marijuana caravans began criss-crossing the state, bringing with them pot doctors who made all their money handing out marijuana cards. In less than a year, the number of “medical marijuana” users increased 5-fold. And shortly after that, according to Montana narcotics chief Mark Long, marijuana DUIs skyrocketed as did the number of fatal car accidents where one of the drivers had marijuana in his blood stream. In two years, the number of fatal car accidents caused by marijuana increased 25 percent. In Montana, marijuana now causes half as many traffic fatalities as alcohol, and the gap is narrowing. In California, the number of fatal car crashes caused by marijuana doubled in the five years after they passed their medical marijuana law. Marijuana is just as deadly behind the wheel as alcohol, and if marijuana use increases it could overtake alcohol as the deadliest drug on the road.

Source:   August 31, 2013

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