Driving on Marijuana Will Leave You High and Dry

From Issue: 
April 2017

Drinking and driving is widely acknowledged as being risky, dangerous, irresponsible and potentially fatal. This stigma against alcohol behind the wheel has been rapidly building in public sentiment and is far from the attitude that once surrounded the combination many years ago.

It’s time to do the same with marijuana and driving.

A 2016 survey by State Farm revealed that one out of four survey respondents don’t believe or don’t know that smoking marijuana and driving can be as bad as drinking and driving. And yet, the statistics bear out the fact that marijuana-impaired driving leaves behind a trail of devastation. Research by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation shows that marijuana is the second most commonly detected substance among driver fatailities in traffic crashes – the first, of course, being alcohol.

With the Canadian government officially tabling legislation to legalize marijuana in July 2018, the timing is even more critical that drivers understand the inherent risks attached to smoking and driving. These include the following:

  • Slower reaction time. This can be especially troubling if you’re required to make a split-second decision and you can’t react quickly enough.
  • Altered time perception. This could result in sitting at a green traffic light for too long, or grow impatient at a red light and blow past it.
  • Multiplicative effect on other drugs. If you’ve had a drink or two prior to getting behind the wheel, those effects are magnified. Drivers who have smoked tend to compensate by driving slower and leaving more following space. These benefits disappear when the driver has also had a few drinks, as they feel less impaired than they are.

There’s some debate about whether driving while high is safer than driving drunk. In the Canada Safety Council’s opinion, that’s akin to saying that pinching yourself is safer than punching yourself.

While the truth of the initial statement continues to be unsure, why risk anything that impairs your judgment? You’re operating a heavy machine capable of reaching high speeds while surrounded by other road users in similar machines. Human life is fragile and, while safety measures have come a long way toward making driving as safe as possible, there’s no safety remedy against poor decisions.

Be smart. Make the right decision. If you’ve been smoking marijuana, stay home. Watch Netflix. Have a snack. Listen to music. Don’t get in the car and endanger your own life, as well as those of everyone around you. It’s just not worth it.