High Driving, is it Really a Crime?


           After talking awhile back about the effects of texting on drivers, it sparked my mind again and I decided to see what other studies had to say about it and why they believe their findings are true, but with relation to marijuana use and driving.  We talked in class about the neutral effect texting possibly has because the study we discussed also stated while texting, drivers also slow down.  I wanted to see if there was a possibility of finding something similar with marijuana users.  It's stated that around 19 percent of teen drivers admitted to driving high in a survey- meaning this doesn't include the percent of teens that could have lied about not doing this as well. (1)

            Turns out, this widely known myth could be due to the file drawer problem because people simply don't want to admit that it may not be as dangerous as they want "driving on drugs" to be.  This also has caused very little studies to focus on positive/neutral effects of driving high when everybody is set out to find all negative effects.  Seven separate studies were reviewed that involved 7,934 drivers said, "Crash culpability studies have failed to demonstrate that drivers with cannabinoids in the blood are significantly more likely than drug free drivers to be culpable in road crashes." (2) They state people who smoke are more aware of their impairment than drunk drivers, allowing them to slow down and focus harder when they know a response is required.  Although this isn't a study proving the evidence, it's the community themselves stating this is what they believe from what they have seen happen in their lives.

            I found a good example of a news report twisting up a story a little to also follow this popular idea of solely negative effects.  CBS stated that a study found "nearly 30 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs other than alcohol, with marijuana being the main culprit." (3) They continued with stating researchers "analyzed nine large-scale drugged driving studies."  Drivers who tested positive for marijuana within three hours of use were over twice as likely to be in a wreck. 

This sounds more legitimate than the first case made?  Not really.  If you pick apart the report, you can slowly see they are merely proving that their statement is false.  First off, to be accurate with my reasoning, this news report is from October 2011.  Around this time there was an estimated 2.24 million car crashes that led to a form of injury.  30 percent of this would be 320,000 crashes that involved someone who tested positive for drugs other than alcohol.  This also doesn't necessarily mean that they are using marijuana, because they state it was the "main culprit", indicating various drugs being used.  They gave us no number stating how many of those drivers had other drugs besides marijuana.  For example, if it is only being considered the "main culprit" and every other drug was five percent of the 30 percent, marijuana use could have consisted of being involved only ten percent of these drug related accidents.  This would reduce marijuana use accidents to consist of 224,000 wrecks, while it already is fewer than 320,000 because the 30 percent of those wrecks are referring to various drugs, including marijuana in the mix.  This means that somewhere between 224,000 and 320,000 accidents involved marijuana use.  Another question is, was that the cause?  They never stated if the drivers who were intoxicated were the cause of the accidents or that their intoxication made the accidents occur.

My last claim to possibly sway your opinion is the statistics on the most common things that have caused fatal car crashes. (4) The first claim they make is that 33% of fatal accidents are solely from drunk drivers, leaving 67 percent left.  It then states a high amount of accidents between midnight and 3am.  They also added that during these hours, 66 percent involved alcohol-impaired driving.  This leaves us with 34 percent solely from driving during the "vampire hour", which now makes up for 67 percent of all accidents.  The third factor is messing with different technology in the car and distracting yourself (i.e. talking on the phone, texting, etc.)  Which accounted for an additional 5,500 deaths- accounting for an additional 25 percent of wrecks out of 2.24 million.  After confusing you with all of these numbers that actually adds up to being the cause of 92 percent of all accidents leaving 8 percent possibly from marijuana, other drugs and freak accidents.  Even when everything is going right, you risk being in an accident every time you drive.  Is a less than 8 percent change really stating that marijuana is one of the leading factors of fatal car crashes?

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Here's a quick spreadsheet I made to give an easier visual of all these numbers.  This shows that marijuana, along with ALL other reasons for accidents (besides the first three specific ones) are involved in less than 8% of all accidents.  Let me know what your opinions on this topic and if you feel CBS truly did prove the opposite of what they were trying to claim to be true.


(1)(1)  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/23/marijuana-use-driving-under-influence-teens-study_n_1296438.html

(2 (2) http://norml.org/library/item/marijuana-and-driving-a-review-of-the-scientific-evidence

(3 (3)  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/marijuana-a-major-cause-of-accidents-what-study-says/

     (4) http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2011/06/17/heres-how-many-car-accidents-youll-have/


I'm glad that you were able to sift through the manipulations of popular media to arrive at some manner of truth on this matter. I, too, think that media outlets and today's society in general have blown the severity of this issue entirely out of proportion. Yes, I agree that driving under any influence - whether it be drug or alcohol related - is dangerous to the welfare of yourself and those around you. However, like you I find it hard to believe that marijuana use is one of the leading causes of fatal car crashes. In February, a news station in Washington state set out with the intention of determining just how much marijuana one could intake and still be capable of driving safely. The results are actually surprising, and the entire study is documented in this video. I think you'd find this really interesting.

I liked this entry and I'm glad you took a critical look at the statistics that were presented from those articles.I grew up with people that smoked constantly and was never afraid to be in the car with somebody who had only smoked cannibus. I knew that if they really were too high to drive or even worried about it they simply wouldn't. I don't know what it is about alcohol but I see many more people that drink and think they're just fine to drive and get a DUI or in an accident. I think that's disgusting, but due to my personal experience I don't have nearly the same amount of fears if the driver had only been smoking.

The worst part about driving high however are the cops. There is no good way to prove that somebody is high on marijuana while they're driving. With alcohol it's easy but this stays in your system much longer. This guy is a little annoying but he brings up good points on the topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeLLRfonwPE

I think you raise some pretty interesting questions and arguments whether or not "driving while high" is a bad thing or not. But I am not sure if the problem is whether or not it is safe or not as bad is the media makes it out to be, but rather it is still technically "driving while under the influence". You can make the notion that it is "not bad" to get high and drive, the problem is in the eyes of the law you are still driving while under the effects of a controlled substance and this counts as a DUI. Since it is breaking the law they really don't care that it isn't so bad to drive while high because you are still high while you drive. Plus, I am pretty sure getting high at the wheel is going to really impact your driving and mess with your eyesight and stuff. That's just my view on the matter.

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