Driving a car while impaired is never recommended; however, new research suggests that driving while high is significantly less dangerous than driving while drunk.
According to a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published in an article on Feb. 17 by USA Today, drivers under the influence of marijuana experience a very low percentage of getting in a car accident, compared to drivers under the influence of alcohol.
The researchers concluded that an individual with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of .08, the legal limit, was four times as likely to crash in comparison to a sober driver. When evaluating those who were found to be at a BAC level of .15, they were 12 times as likely to crash the vehicle. On the other hand, the subjects found to be high while driving experienced a mere five percent increase in the likelihood of a crash.
Suanne Schaad, Substance Awareness Coordinator, said that there is a correlation between being under the influence of either drugs or alcohol and car accidents.
“Marijuana and alcohol both cause impairments while driving. If a person is under the influence, their ability to function properly and stay alert has been decreased,” Schaad said.
“Both put you at higher risk. Period. It is kind of like asking which is a better drug to do, A or B, both can cause you a problem,” Schaad continued.
The study conducted by the NHTSA involved more than 3,000 drivers that crashed their cars over the course of 20 months in Virginia Beach, VA. In assessing the crashes, the police officers determined if those involved were under the influence of any drug at the time of the accident.
Additionally, 6,000 control drivers, drivers who were not involved in any accidents, were implemented into the study.
An anonymous junior at the University said she has operated a vehicle while under the influence of both drugs and alcohol at different times, and her experiences coincided with the findings.
“I have experienced driving with both drugs and alcohol in my system,” said the anonymous art student. “I was totally impaired while I was drunk, but when I was high, I managed to operate the vehicle properly enough to get home safely. “
“However, I realize that neither is smart and I am definitely not repeating my actions,” the student said,
Despite the studies, the research on the effects of marijuana on a driver is still ambiguous, and experimenters urge drivers not to drive while high.
Captain Dean Volpe of the Monmouth University Police Department (MUPD) said that driving under the influence of intoxicants is both illegal and unsafe. “People should avoid driving under the influence of any kind because regardless if the chances are higher when having alcohol in the system, the person is still putting themselves and other drivers on the road at serious risk,” said Volpe.
“Whether the individual is drunk or high, it is still illegal and they will obviously face serious consequences,” Volpe continued.
An anonymous senior biology major noted that his experience of driving while high is wildly different than the information cited by the experimenters.
“As much as I am ashamed to admit, I did drive home once while I was high on marijuana,” he said “Even though the study says it barely affects your driving skills, I absolutely was impaired and I am lucky no one, especially those in other vehicles, got hurt,” said the student.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) statistics, 28 people die every day as a result of drunk driving. Additionally, in 2012, 239 child passengers under the age of 15 were killed in drunken driving accidents, representing 20 percent of all traffic fatalities
Christina McSherry, a professor at the University’s Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health Studies, warned against the use of engaging in such activities. “I do not approve of driving drunk or high on marijuana,” she said.
According to a Columbia University’s School of Public Health, marijuana plays a tremendous role in the impairment of one’s driving ability regardless if the chances of an accident aren’t very high. The researchers gathered data from fatal car accidents in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Of all the crashes, marijuana accounted for 12 percent.
“People smoke pot because it changes and alters our world, our perception of time and space,” said Schaad.
“These changes felt can certainly affect our driving skills. When driving, we need these perceptions of time and of space to be accurate, not altered by a drug. The slower reaction time and psychomotor skills can lead to accidents,” Schaad said.
Additionally, Schaad said no drug is safe to use, as it inhibits one’s ability to properly function.
If anyone is interested in talking about alcohol or drug use, they can go to the Office of Substance Awareness located in the Health Center. All discussions are free and confidential.
PHOTO TAKEN from teenlife.com