Driving while intoxicated is a well known way to cause an accident on the road. Although not as common, you can be charged with that offense for more than just drinking alcohol. It also includes anything else that causes impairment, such as drugs (whether they are legal ones or not), including marijuana.
However, 20 years of study has concluded that marijuana smokers may actually be getting a bad rap and that they may actually have fewer accidents than other drivers. There have been several studies done over the past 20 years and every one of them has revealed that using marijuana actually has a very minor, if any, effect on the ability of a person to drive a car or other vehicle.
Marijuana, Alcohol users Use Products Differently
Research studies showed that if a comparison was done between how drivers who had been drinking alcohol and those who had been using marijuana, it showed that the pot users were in fewer crashes.
Why is this so?
Researchers believe it is because of the way people consume the two products, as alcohol drinkers usually do their drinking out in public and then try to drive home, while pot smokers usually smoke at home and don't try to drive, meaning fewer are involved in driving accidents in the first place.
Research also shows that while drunk drivers usually drive faster and don't understand that their driving skills are messed up, the drivers that have been smoking marijuana actually tend to drive slower and stay away from risky behavior.
These and other tests on marijuana smoking and driving were done in different places all over the world, including Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, the United States, and the UK with the following results:
Results of Major Studies on Marijuana and Driving
The research that has been done on this phenomenon of marijuana smoking and driving has shown some interesting results:
Research studies in the Netherlands at the Dutch Institute for Road Safety Research that drivers with blood alcohol rates of .5 percent up to .8 percent had accidents five times more than other drivers, and if it was higher amounts of alcohol, the results were accidents happening up to 15 times more often. But, the marijuana smokers actually showed these drivers posed NO risk at all!
Top 10 Reasons Marijuana Users Are Safer Drivers
When you combine all of the main results of these two decades worth of scientific research studies, the following 10 reasons marijuana drivers are safer than drunk drivers comes out like this:
1. Drivers who had been using marijuana were found to drive slower, according to a 1983 study done by U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). This was seen as a factor in their favor, since drivers who drank alcohol usually drove faster and that is part of the reason they had accidents.
2. Marijuana users were able to drive straight and not have any trouble staying in their own lanes when driving on the highway, according to a NHTSA done in 1993 in the Netherlands. The study determined also that the use of marijuana had very little affect on the person's overall driving ability.
3. Drivers who had smoked marijuana were shown to be less likely to try to pass other cars and to drive at a consistent speed, according to a University of Adelaide study done in Australia. The study showed no danger unless the drivers had also been drinking alcohol.
4. Drivers high on marijuana were also shown to be less likely to drive in a reckless fashion, according to a study done in 2000 in the UK by the UK Transport Research Lab. The study was done using driver on driving simulators over a period of a month and was actually undertaken to show that pot was a cause for impairment, but instead it showed the opposite and confirmed that these drivers were actually much safer than some of the other drivers on the road.
5. States that allow the legal use of marijuana for medical reasons are noticing less traffic fatalities; for instance, in Colorado and Montana there has been a nine percent drop in traffic fatalities and a five percent drop in beer sales.
The conclusion was that using marijuana actually has helped save lives! Medical marijuana is allowed in 16 states in the U.S.
6. Low doses of marijuana in a person's system was found by tests in Canada in 2002 to have little effect on a person's ability to drive a car, and that these drivers were in much fewer car crashes than alcohol drinkers.
7. Most marijuana smokers have fewer crashes because they don't even drive in the first place and just stay home thus concluded more than one of these tests on pot smoking and driving.
8. Marijuana smokers are thought to be more sober drivers. Traffic information from 13 states where medical marijuana is legal showed that these drivers were actually safer and more careful than many other drivers on the road.
These studies were confirmed by the University of Colorado and the Montana State University when they compared a relationship between legal marijuana use and deaths in traffic accidents in those states. The studies done by a group called the Truth About Cars showed that traffic deaths fell nine percent in states with legal use of medical marijuana.
(To view our study on Drunk Driving vs. Alcohol-Related Traffic Deaths, click here.)
9. Multiple studies showed that marijuana smokers were less likely to be risk takers than those that use alcohol. The studies showed that the marijuana calmed them down and made them actually pay more attention to their abilities.
All of these tests and research studies showed that while some people think that marijuana is a major cause of traffic problems, in reality it may make the users even safer when they get behind the wheel!
10. Marijuana smoking drivers were shown to drive at prescribed following distances, which made them less likely to cause or have crashes.
Every test seemed to come up with these same results in all of the countries they were done in. Even so, insurance companies will still penalize any driver in an accident that has been shown to have been smoking pot, so this doesn't give drivers free reign to smoke pot and drive.
So, the bottom line is that while alcohol has been shown in every single incident to have major problems and to have caused countless traffic crashes and fatalities, pot smoking overall has had none of these issues and in fact may make drivers pay more attention, drive slower and straighter and perhaps even stay home so they can't be in an accident at all!