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Stoned drivers are safer than drunk ones, new federal data show (washingtonpost.com)
251 points by pkaeding on May 16, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 268 comments



As a full supporter of cannabis legalization, I'm also a big supporter of a technology that can instantly detect whether someone's reflexes are impaired by cannabis.

Notice that I'm focusing on whether or not they are impaired, as opposed to the amount in their bloodstream. The point being that people that use cannabis regularly for medical reasons don't seem to be impaired by it at all, while newer or more occasional users are certainly impaired.

It would be fascinating to see what kind of technologies could be used to achieve this that folks on HN are aware of.


> a technology that can instantly detect whether someone's reflexes are impaired

I'm not sure if that would work in practice. As mentioned, alcohol makes someone more confident, or more likely to do stupid things. The test should incorporate that.

From another point of view, the alcohol tricks you into thinking your reflexes are still normal, while they are not. And this is the dangerous part, not the fact that your reflexes are somewhat lower (and perhaps comparable to an old lady who is still perfectly capable to drive safely).


>alcohol makes someone more confident, or more likely to do stupid things.

Reminds me of the "say the alphabet backwards" challenge that cops often present in sobriety tests.

Drunk: ZYX... ZYXW... wait-wait... okay, ZYXTW, ummm...

Sober: I can't do that.

Stoned: Oh whaaat? No way, man. I can't even do that sober - shit, I mean...


Why do cops do that in America anyways? Isn't it much more secure to always use a breathalyzer. It only takes a few minutes and you can drive on. I'm also quite sure that you could train for soberty tests (if they are as "unusual" as saying the alphabet backwards) when you're drunk so the cops think you're under the legal limit.


>Isn't it much more secure to always use a breathalyzer.

The field sobriety and breathalyzer tests are just excuses to get suspected DWIs into the drunk tank nowadays.

Once there they'll draw blood for drug and blood-alcohol testing. That's the test that will be used in court if it gets that far.

>I'm also quite sure that you could train for soberty tests

Not a doctor but I don't know that you could fake out a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_sobriety_testing


Because is you fail a "field sobriety test", it doesn't matter if you fail a breathalyzer, you get arrested for DUI/DWI anyway. So they do the field sobriety test first, then the breathalyzer after, so they have two chances of having a reason to arrest you.


But would their sobriety test hold up in court or what happens when you fail their field test (but pass the other test). If it doesn't hold up in court (because the scientific tests confirmed sobriety), why would they even bother doing both tests? As far as I know, breathalyzer are far more accurate (less false negatives and positives). This makes me wonder why they would even consider doing the other test. They could catch actual drunk drivers with the time saved and have less work to do (because they don't need to file out paper work for sober drivers).


As far as holding up in court, I'm not sure. But most cases never go to trial, and a plea agreement is simply made.


Deep in my memory banks I have the recollection of a song "Backwards Alphabet", maybe it was on Sesame Street or something, that would allow you to "sing" the alphabet backwards without actually having to think about it; the melody acts as a mnemonic device to go along with the "lyrics" which are just the alphabet backwards.

I wonder how a cop would react if you started singing the alphabet backwards.


The request is usually accompanied by "without singing" because they definitely know this trick.

In fact I think it's mostly not a test they use, or if it is it's to see how the person handles it, not that they can actually do it.


I don't know about you, buy my drunken singing is noticeably different than my sober singing.


Yeah, I've heard that it's supposed to be a gotcha, and the "actual" test is that only drunk people will attempt it, while sober people will, allegedly, refuse to try.

Because refusing to obey a police officer who's considering arresting you is such a sober decision.


But I know my alphabet backwards. If sober, and I state it perfectly, will they think I'm drunk?


I can't do it sober, and I'm always sober these days. I find that test awkward.


Why did you switch to alcohol when the parent was talking cannabis. They are very different drugs with very different physiological and psychological effects.


Right now, there is none. Obviously the measurable amount isn't reliable - but that has been known to general users for years. And so much of it is personal - a person going out on the weekend and smoking a lot (much like drinking most weekends or occasionally) is going to be really impaired. A regular smoker, who keeps a slight buzz and gets used to it would have very little effect most times. People around them don't have a clue.

I honestly think the best solution would be to regulate the current traffic laws better - including things such as speed limits, yeilding to pedestrians, keeping distance ahead of you (don't know if that is a law) and other things. Not only is this going to help catch people too impaired to be driving, but folks that are simply not paying attention to the road and trying to multi-task while driving.


Police have been doing field sobriety tests that don't rely on chemical detection for a very, very long time. Examples: walk a straight line, follow the light with your eyes, close your eyes and tell me when 30 seconds have passed, stand on one leg, and so on.


Yes and they are incredibly inaccurate and rely entirely on subjective judgement from the cop's perspective.

Full disclosure: I have been pulled over and arrested for "driving while ability impaired" (essentially the non-alcohol DUI)

When I was going to school in upstate NY, I was pulled over as I drove my friend home. The cop thought we smelled like weed (fair enough, my friend had some on him, I was sober and not holding). So he pulls me out of the car and makes me do a "field sobriety test" which consisted of the following (no joke):

-Standing on one leg for 10 seconds

-Walking in a straight line in the dark while he flashed a light at you like a strobe

-Having to close your eyes and then open them when you "thought" 30 seconds had passed

-Having to recite as much as the alphabet backwards as you can

I'm not a coordinated person in general but I had never been pulled over or issued a traffic ticket before. But they then use this circus act as the basis to say "Hey, time for a blood test because you might be high" and then they take you to a hospital. You can refuse the blood test but you get your license suspended for like a month immediately and I needed to drive to work and school. I hadn't smoked in a bit so I thought I'd be good for the blood test and that I'd be fine in court. Of course, it's fallacious to use the blood sample because it can have trace THC from days ago. So you, like I did, can get slapped with a charge based on the fact that you smoked last weekend and then - how dare you - decided to drive days after the fact.

I had to go to court and then was found guilty based on this erroneous evidence. I had to go to "addiction counseling" where the psych told me I exhibited absolutely no addictive symptoms yet I still had to attend. I got one of my scholarships revoked simply based on the charges against me. I had to pay fines and then sign statements at the end of my "counseling" that I would refrain from drug use and be a productive member of society (it actually was worded like that).

I'm not really sure what the solution is. It will be interesting to see what the accident rates / fatalities from stoned drivers are in the coming years. All I know is the current system is a farce and only used to drive revenue to the state.


Agreed. I've been pulled over as the DD where I know I had a singular beer, six hours before (and I also work in EMS, and am very used to the whole 'two beers' excuse).

"Keep your head straight, follow the pen with your eyes as I move it left and right".

"Based on your eyes twitching when you got to the edge of the field of vision, I would like to breathalyze you".

Oh, look. 0.0. Perhaps my eye response was due to the fact that I was standing near your patrol car, and as I looked that way, my eyes had to adjust from 2am darkness to high intensity, strobing lights.

Unable to book me for DUI, he ticketed me for disobeying a traffic signal (which I later contested and won).

Still had the gall to tell me "You got off lucky tonight".


Do you think legalization will cause usage to increase? Seems to me just about anyone who would use marijuana in the first place is already using it. I don't expect an increase in consumption per capita at all.


Anecdata alert: it increased my usage, and that of my wife. From "none", because didn't need the legal hassles even if the risk was practically non-existent in the Seattle area if you had some sense, to "pretty regular use" now that it's legal in WA. By far the biggest reason for the switch was because the hassle of tracking down weed just wasn't worth the hassle. Now the store is on the way home, takes an extra five minutes to pick some up.

So legal weed is driving us all to be pot heads, right? I mean, look at us: kindly middle age couple who are nice to animals and pay their taxes, and now they're smoking that whacky weed on the weekends! Meh, we're not the ones you needed to worry about in the first place. If it ain't weed, we'd be in Woodinville on Sunday doing wine tastings and driving home after (well, we wouldn't, but I see it every weekend). Our community is much better off if instead my wife and I sit home on a Saturday night smoking a bowl and playing video games.

Are we representative? I have absolutely no idea. But surely we're not the only two people in the entire state of WA who said, after the retail stores opened, "ya know, haven't bought a 1/4 ounce in decades, but I used smoke weed back in the day and I kind of enjoyed it. Now that it's legal, think I'll swing by that new store on the way home tomorrow."


> I used smoke weed back in the day and I kind of enjoyed it.

Based on my observations at one Washington state dispensary, at least half of the customers are in their 60's or 70's. I asked the woman behind the counter about it and she told me that many of them are seeking relief from chronic pain and/or cancer treatments.


I wonder how much of the fight against such products being legal is from 'big pharma' trying to stop exactly this?


A lot. We've had the "big 5" industries fighting against us for decades:

* Pharma (because of the amazing and un-patentable medical applications of it)

* Private Criminal Justice and Police Unions (Marijuana is one of the easiest things to make an arrest on--private prisons profit, probation companies profit, inmate phone services, phone providers, ankle bracelet companies, police equipment companies, etc. all profit. For Police Unions, marijuana-related crimes accounting for a sizable percentage of police stops and arrests, legal weed means less jobs and potentially lower pay. Additionally, Marijuana is easy to identify from a distance due to smell, and gives an officer probable cause to make a stop and search for other illegal activity)

* Paper/Textiles (Hemp!)

* Alcohol (Legal weed potentially means a loss of sales for the only major legal intoxicant.)

* Tobacco (Legal weed means something for people to smoke that isn't a cigarette.)

Some of these industries are shifting. Big Tobacco, for example, seems to be trying to join the party, and has made some moves that indicate a desire to enter the industry. I think Paper and Textiles either will come around or already are, as I think Hemp could be easily incorporated into the existing industry.

But yeah, I believe that Big Pharma is as big of a part of this as police unions and Big Criminal Justice.


It has crossed my mind, given the difficulty my wife had in getting a card for migraines (in summary, docs that she went to said, "no". Try some big pharma pills with terrible side effects instead.)

Though it could very well be an attempt to avoid becoming California, where the doctor next door to the dispensary will write you one up if you complain about your chronic hangnails.


I was talking more about making it as regulated as alcohol and smoking are today, given that the actual side effects are no worse (and in fact might be more preferable).


I'm from Portland and I had smoked when I was younger as most people do, however I stopped around 20. 30 now and I smoke most days due to the legality change in OR.

Also have some friends in Denver who started back up after it became legal.

Just some more anecdotal 'evidence' to go off of.


Yes, I think we will see a mild increase. I even know some people who started smoking once it was legalized in their state (they were very cautious about run-ins with the law because of family history). I've been smoking since I was 17 and smoke pretty much every day still. However I think what is more important is that it's becoming more accepted and legitimized so that there can be worthwhile and meaningful studies done about the drug and the habits of its users, including driving accident statistics.


> I'm not really sure what the solution is.

Stop smoking weed? That doesn't sound at all worth the trouble.


Yes, let's just acquiesce to the whims of the state. Who cares about personal liberty or science or medicine or pharmacology?

If anything, my experience with the state and it's drug prohibition, has made me want to smoke even more weed. Fuck the hick country cops who made me recite the alphabet backwards. Fuck the school admin who revoked my scholarship. I make six figures and travel the world for my job and for my pleasure and I smoke as much weed as I want.

If I may get personal for a second, weed is the only thing that has helped with my depression and schizophrenia. I had several depressive episodes in my life, from when I was young to my late teens and spent time in a mental facility. However, since I've started smoking habitually I have not had a single episode and feel hundreds of times better than I ever have.

Was it worth all the trouble? Honestly, yes. I learned about what matters in my life and I learned to take responsibility for my choices, which means yes, I am going to keep smoking weed for as long as I want because I'd rather stay out of my depression and focused on living the best, most meaningful life I can despite whatever bylaws are forced on me.


i feel you. I had an accident and called the police. got arrested, jailed and beaten by guards. first they claimed i was drunk (i dont drink). i could not not stand on one leg for 30 seconds. after brethalizer showed 0 they claimed i was on drugs. got jailed for 2 nights. blood test came back negative for everything 40 days later. they retested it and found wellbutrin and xanax in my blood, my prescription meds. xanax i took 17 hours before the accident, and wellbutrin 8 hours. xanax was too low levels to confirm. they are charing me with DUI for wellbutrin now. everything to keep their story going. My reaction is to stop all the medications, i refuse to be blackmailed for my prescription meds, which dont even help me much. Feels good to be free-er. Hopefully never again.


Did you get a lawyer? Sounds like something that a competent defense attorney could get squashed in about 10 seconds.


Yeah but who just has $3,000+ dollars sitting around for a competent defense attorney? I make six figures and would have a very hard time doing that. Maybe some take payment plans, but my credit is shot... And don't even pretend that public defenders are worth a shit.


oh yeah of course.. spent $15000 on lawyers already. unfortunately they are part of the eco system and i made a mistake to hire one who charges hourly at first. so he dragged it out. now i got one for a flat rate, and hopefully its done soon.


I'm sorry to hear that. That's just god awful. The pursuit of "justice" in this country can make you really sick to your stomach sometimes. I hope everything turns out well for you, my friend.


thank you.. all you can do is go through a situation in a case like that and don't get discouraged.


Is there any scientific evidence suggesting that marijuana treats depression or schizophrenia in any meaningful way? I don't believe so, which would suggest that you've merely been lucky not to have had additional episodes; for the safety of yourself and others, I would suggest you seek real, professional treatment and medication for your schizophrenia before you hurt yourself or someone else.


One reason there isn't significant scientific evidence is because there are way more hoops to jump through just to do the research, and even then researchers may be punished just for trying to do the research! - http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/us/politics/medical-mariju...


Depression, yes; see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/06/marijauna-depressio... .

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that OP has "just been lucky". There is also no evidence to suggest that OP is a threat to him/herself or anyone else; they simply noted that they had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Also, Bupropion is an anti-depressant, not an anti-psychotic. And Xanax is a strong Benzodiazepine and also not in any way an antipsychotic. So the conditions that OP was treating were basically depression and anxiety, which scientific evidence shows Cannabis has positive impact on both.

Now, this should provide all of the evidence needed to contradict your ridiculousness, but, in case it doesn't, YES, certain constituent compounds of Cannabis DO INDEED treat schizophrenia (and, again, your insinuation that anyone claimed it /did/ treat schizophrenia is a bit illogical for reasons above). See here for more info: https://www.projectcbd.org/schizophrenia

CBD is a potent anti-psychotic and antianxiety/anticonvulsant. Granted, it's present in small relative amounts to THC in most strains, but CBD supplements are available in all of the Medical states. I take them almost daily for anxiety and anti-inflammatory reasons.


Could you clarify what you found ridiculous in my comment? I don't need to present scientific evidence that he's a potential harm to himself or others; anyone who is depressed or schizophrenic is potentially such a threat. The evidence that he's just been lucky is that despite not treating his illnesses with modalities proven to provide treatment, he hasn't had a severe depression or schizophrenic episode. Also, you still haven't provided any peer-reviewed research suggesting that marijuana is useful for treating depression, anxiety or schizophrenia; was that an oversight or is it unavailable? My understanding is it's unavailable, again suggesting that because he's not actually treating his illnesses with medications that can actually be of benefit, he's simply been lucky while smoking pot that he hasn't had any severe issues, like suicidal or homicidal ideation. Clearly you have a pot-slanted viewpoint, but just because you believe in the healing powers of a random plant with thousands of chemicals in it, doesn't mean any one or more of those chemicals is actually supported by scientific evidence as being a treatment for depression, anxiety or schizophrenia as compared to legitimate medications.


I don't know about the science behind it, but as a teenager and young adult I had numerous episodes in and out of mental institutions and was diagnosed by various professionals as bipolar, schizophrenic, or borderline personality disorder. I tried several antidepressants and "mood stabilizers" some of which never worked and some that worked but with side effects I couldn't accept. During this period of my life I was definitely occasionally a danger to myself and others.

About 10 years ago, as an adult never having tried any illicit substances, I started using cannabis and found marked improvement in my mood and focus. Since then, smoking weed every few days, I have had zero "episodes", I am happy most of the time, am in a stable long-term relationship with a new child and am generally a productive member of society.

I have tried to research scientific studies that explain these results but have always found the corpus lacking. I think these interactions definitely deserve more exploration.


Pal, I've gone through the whole rut of "professional" treatment. I've been seeing psychiatrists and psychologists since I was in the third grade. I went to several counselors throughout high school, some of them mandated some of them I found through my own research and references. I spent over two weeks in a serious inpatient facility where they open the door to your room every 10 minutes to make sure you haven't killed yourself yet. I had to be taken away on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance while my parents looked on, baffled and confused as me. I've been on uppers, downers, SSRIs; I've done CBT and group therapy, I've meditated for hours on end, I've seen shrinks that cost $300/hr and I've spent my fair share talking to the shrink on the other end of the bar. But nothing has helped me as much as I feel weed has. Call it anecdata, but considering that I was having issues every few months or so for years...decades...until I started smoking weed well, I haven't had a problem in almost nine years so call me lucky.


Thanks for sharing your story. I share your sentiments. Have an upvote.


Why? It helps me. I use it medicinally. Let's fix the laws.


> And so much of it is personal

This is true of drunk driving too. I don't think that means we just shouldn't try to impose any restrictions...


That is true, but like the article stated, there is much more relation and science affirming the connection between BAC and an impaired ability to drive than there is due to pot. And I'm sure that there are plenty of people that simply don't get caught, and more that would otherwise not get caught if it weren't for checkpoints.

If we don't have the science, technology, nor a fair way to test, I'm not sure how making pot-specific laws is going to help do anything other than make people feel like something has been done.

At least with better controls and better general laws, it makes everyone safer. People that can't drive accordingly, regardless of any drug, probably shouldn't be driving at all.


> Right now, there is none. ... a person going out on the weekend and smoking a lot (much like drinking most weekends or occasionally) is going to be really impaired.

I think the article is pretty misleading but the conclusion is clear: "There's plenty of evidence showing that marijuana use impairs key driving skills. If you get really stoned and then get behind the wheel, you're asking for trouble.".

The problem is that the legal thresholds for THC are so low that "stone drivers" are not actually stone, making the whole federal study flawed.

Here: "Several states have passed laws attempting to define "marijuana-impaired driving" similarly to drunk driving. Colorado, for instance, sets a blood THC threshold of 5 nanograms per milliliter. But that number tells us next to nothing about whether a person is impaired or fit to drive. "

If you look at the data, "any illegal drug" is also not correlated with more accidents.


> but the conclusion is clear: "There's plenty of evidence showing that marijuana use impairs key driving skills. If you get really stoned and then get behind the wheel, you're asking for trouble.".

While the conclusion is clear, it's also misleading. No one disputes that you can get too stoned to drive, that isn't the issue that matters. What matters is whether those too stoned to drive drive anyway like they do on alcohol. Anecdotally from decades of experience I can say they don't, pot doesn't destroy your ability to judge your state of mind so there's no reason to treat it with special exceptions like we do for alcohol. Most long term smokers drive while high, but not while impaired. High != impaired just as drinking one beer doesn't destroy your ability to drive safely.


5ng/ml is absolutely ridiculous. 5ng/ml is down in the noise of even a very sensitive test, and waaaay under the noise floor for more common EMIT tests. That's a law meant to let a prosecutor throw anyone under the bus when he wants to.


There is at least one made and more "pot breathalysers" on the way. See http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/ubc-pot-breat...


Impairment should be the focus, rather than the amount of any substance in anybody's bloodstream. Why not a general test of perception and reaction time?


How do you figure out what is normal for that person, though? Or what is normal to society? How do we set up a test that is fair to most folks? Can we rely on police training to be able to make accomidations (quickly) for those that are disabled, etc?


It's not per-person. There's ONE standard for driving. If for any reason (weakness, blindness, lack of reflexes, impairment, age, etc) you can't reach that bar, then in reality you can't safely drive and so you shouldn't.

It really doesn't matter the age, ability, or whatever - as long as a person CAN reach the minimum requirements to drive on the road, they should be allowed to chose to do so. I don't see a need to discriminate by any means other than performance.


Is there a standard? What standards body has decided it and where can I see it's tests enumerated?

Or do you mean the quick and dirty 'field sobriety tests' that many police offers use? I'm not aware of those being actual standards or tests so much as quick and dirty tools to justify the effort of /actual/ standards tests (BTW, I recall hearing that you should always demand the blood test over the breath tests).


I think blood alcohol content counts as an objective standard.


Yes, many states in the US (and I presume other governments at some level around the world) have BAC level tests that are a legal limit which has a strong scientific correlation to of resulting in impaired driving and decision making.

I think there might be some debate over variance of correlation among different ethnicity and experience level of particular users, but I cannot recall any actual disagreement about the current legal BAC limits being close enough for the general population.

However that is the point being made by the parent article; that while presence of alcohol in someone's blood does have that strong scientific correlation there is as yet no strong scientific correlation for any of the legal limits currently in place.


BAC is only a legal standard, not a physiological standard.


> I'm also a big supporter of a technology that can instantly detect whether someone's reflexes are impaired by cannabis.

We simply don't need that; this presume driving while high is a problem that needs solving and it quite simply isn't. There's no evidence to justify treating pot special like we do alcohol and specifically testing for it.


How would you differentiate between someone with good reflexes who is currently impaired by cannabis, and someone with bad reflexes who isn't?

As a followup question, what would be the point of making that distinction?


>> As a followup question, what would be the point of making that distinction?

People with better reflexes might drive less conservatively due to their reflexes, and may continue to do so even while impaired.


I could see something like an augmented reality setup for a driver where fake pedestrians wander into the road ahead of you and if you don't slow down in time you are warned / flagged as impaired / ignition shuts down. Passes the specificity test, for sure - which something like a reflex test to turn the ignition switch does not.

The problem is that it's way too invasive for people to sign up for it voluntarily - not to mention you'd cause a bunch of sudden stops for no reason and maybe create more accidents than you prevent.


I'd assume regular medical users have gotten very used to the effects of pot, as opposed to noobs.


The real solution is to get people off the road in general.


I'm not sure I understand what you're proposing. What is a credible test of impairment that can be administered automatically, remotely, anonymously, and with a high enough degree of accuracy and reliability (mitigation of false positives and false negatives), that we could feel ok about legislating around it?


Cops can tell if you're stoned. It's not that difficult. It's not like they never see it.


Having driven through multiple DUI checkpoints while stoned I can attest that this is not true.


Yeah, but the poster above us talking about the degree to which someone is stoned, not just true/false. Relying purely on human judgement is not a good idea for something like that. Especially considering all of the abuses police commit already. If all they need to do is judge you're too stoned without any quantifying test, that's not good.


IIRC, in most jurisdictions, that's all they need to do with alcohol to arrest. Blood/breath results are additional evidence which will aid with conviction, since there is an prima facie legal limit as well as a prohibition on driving while impaired do to alcohol regardless of BAC, but most jurisdictions also prohibit driving while impaired with any substance, whether or not that substance is one for which a prima facie limit has been established.


I'm a big supporter of a technology that can instantly detect whether someone's reflexes are impaired by cannabis.

Wow. So you're also a big supporter of the massive, real-time surveillance infrastructure required to make this possible, then.

Don't think for a minute that those devices (which will inevitably be required in all human-driven cars... for as long as humans are allowed to drive cars, that is) won't be reporting those findings to insurance companies and of course, to one's friendly local police department -- and by extension, all police departments nationwide -- once in place.


I think parent commenter meant a device that can check the impairment of a person's reflexes, physically, when asked. Like a breathalyzer for reflexes.


You're right; somehow I was reflexively thinking that such a device would have to be be mandatory. But the way you phrase it, it's clear that that wasn't what was being proposed.


Do not read this and think it's okay to drive high. It's not. Do not drive high. Call an uber or something.

I worry that people read studies like this and suddenly justify going out and driving while impaired. Driving is an incredibly dangerous activity on its own. Doing it when you're stoned is a stupid and risky move, and comparing it to how much more dangerous drunk driving is doesn't make it less stupid.

If you've never smoked pot, you don't understand how it feels and affects your thinking/reactions/perception of time and reality. If you smoke pot everyday, it may affect you less due to tolerance, but it's still affecting you, much like a functional alcoholic.

I have nothing against usage and I strongly encourage legalization, but I don't think it's okay to pretend that it's safe to get high and go driving.


It's also not safe to drive while tired, on any medication at all (including over the counter drugs), while texting, while on the phone, while not looking at the road, with glasses (they could fall off and you'd be blind), with a heart condition, etc etc.

I think it's safe to assume you drive very often with things that affect your driving. If pot is proven to not affect your driving to a measurable degree, then the only thing that is different between that and random over the counter medication is one is called pot.


I don't really mess with cannabis any more, but I think that a lot of folks have strange ideas about how it affects people.

If my only experience with the drug were the first couple of times in college where we were taking bong hits, then yeah, I can see why people would be shocked that you could drive in that state. It took a me a couple of years before I discovered that most of the folks (especially the folks in their 50s - 60s I hang out with) really are just getting a little bit at a time.

It's possible (and I think for many long-term users, more normal) to have only enough to modify your mood and outlook on events without becoming glued-to-the-couch high.

Pro tip: there is also a difference between having a beer with dinner and chugging vodka shots all night long. :D


"Pro tip: there is also a difference between having a beer with dinner and chugging vodka shots all night long. :D"

True, which points to the fact that it would be useful to have a well-understood BAC-like scale for marijuana usage, especially as the drug becomes more and more legal to use.

Clearly there's a difference between having one beer and driving an hour later compared to getting behind the wheel while nearly passed-out drunk. Lots of people have a decent approximate sense of what 0.08 BAC is when it comes to alcohol consumption, but everyone who is "high" is just "high" without some sort of well-defined scale.


> a well-understood BAC-like scale for marijuana usage, especially as the drug becomes more and more legal to use.

That'd be tough. BAC is a meaningful metric because alcohol crosses the blood-brain barrier very easily. So, the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream is a very good predictor of the amount of alcohol acting on the brain.

THC, on the other hand, does not cross the blood-brain barrier so readily. So the problem isn't that we can't measure the amount of THC in the blood; it's that it doesn't actually tell us anything meaningful[0].

> Lots of people have a decent approximate sense of what 0.08 BAC is when it comes to alcohol consumption, but everyone who is "high" is just "high" without some sort of well-defined scale.

I actually don't think it's true that most people have an approximate sense of what .08 is. I think that most people believe they do, but most people actually have a very flawed misunderstanding of what .08 means (and doesn't mean).

You can test this out yourself! If you want to be the life of the party, buy a portable breathalyzer for about $100. When you go out, ask your friends to guess what their own BAC is (and what their friends' BAC are, based on how drunk they're acting). I bet you you'll find really large disparities between the numbers. People just aren't very good at gauging how drunk they are (or how drunk their friends are). Or, alternatively, BAC just isn't a very good measure of impairment - you can interpret this either way.

[0] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12404577


tolerance comes into account, which is why comparing driving on marijuana and driving on alcohol is akin to comparing apples and oranges.

they're entirely, exponentially, infinitely different.


As a mathematician, I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with you on "exponentially" and "infinitely" there.


it's hyperbole, not science. fair enough, though.


I'm going to disagree here too. I've never been much of an alcohol drinker. I've probably had six standard drinks in the past year.

If I drank a six pack of beer right now I'd probably pass out, while some of the people I work with would still be able to drive quite well.

Something roughly equivalent applies to marijuana.


if you smoked a joint (or 6 joints, whatever) with no tolerance you'd probably just want to eat a twinky and have a nap instead of driving.

even if you didn't, your motor control wouldn't be nearly as impaired, nor would your mental faculty.

your judgement also wouldn't be as impaired as having a 6 pack of beer with no tolerance, making it even less likely you get behind the wheel while too intoxicated.

I'd call that a "false" equivalence, not a rough one.


Fair points, and I agree with the impaired judgement thing too, and you're right it is a false equivalence.

I'll be honest...

What I meant to say was, talking from experience: when I smoke six bongs of straight or strong mix, there's no way I should drive a car. Mostly because I'm too busy laughing or sleeping.

Whereas last time I drank half a bottle of spirits I woke in a strange bed and could see my car out the window and had no recollection of how it got there.

Alcohol is one hell of a drug.


Unless you can easily estimate your BAC yourself, it's not useful.


There is also a world of difference between sativa and indica. Sativa dominant strains can often leave you very 'clear headed' and active while indicas more often than not make you, like you alluded, couchlocked.


I feel like you didn't even read the article. Here's the summary of the linked study:

> Differences in study designs frequently account for inconsistencies in results between studies. Participant-selection bias and confounding factors attenuate ostensible cannabis effects, but the association with MVA often retains significance. Evidence suggests recent smoking and/or blood THC concentrations 2-5 ng/mL are associated with substantial driving impairment, particularly in occasional smokers. Future cannabis-and-driving research should emphasize challenging tasks, such as divided attention, and include occasional and chronic daily cannabis smokers.

Suggesting that taking a couple Tylenol is as dangerous as smoking anything (even tobacco for occasional users) before/while driving is ridiculous.


I believe that comparison with an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Dramamine), Fexofenadine (Allegra), or Cetirizine (Zyrtec) would be more appropriate. Some of the people that I know take drugs to treat their allergies far more often than analgesics for headaches.

Here is a thought experiment. You are a passenger in a car, chained to the seat. Would you rather the driver drink shots of ethanol, smoke marijuana cigarettes, swallow antihistamine pills, or log in to Twitter/Facebook via mobile phone? Assume that you wish to minimize both risk of death and the severity of nonfatal injuries.


Very good thought experiment. I would choose marijuana over any of the others in a heartbeat. The only exception would be if the driver is not a regular user. In that case, probably the antihistamines.


Cetirizine and fexofenadine (most 2G antihistamines, in fact) have no significant sedative effect.


Anecdotal, but I am very familiar with a counterexample. The sedative effect is not as severe or persistent as with a 1st-generation drug, but it still has a significant effect on this particular individual, if not a statistically significant effect on the general population.


> on any medication at all (including over the counter drugs)

I assume you mean any medication which may impair you.

There are lot's of medications which people should take before driving, like anti-seizure, antipsychotics, heart control, blood sugar control, and so on.

It will typically tell you on the label if it is safe to take and operate heavy machinery. Although I'd always suggest taking it the first time while not doing so regardless, just in case of an unexpected side effect or adverse reaction.


> There are lot's of medications which people should take before driving, like anti-seizure, antipsychotics, heart control, blood sugar control, and so on.

anxiety, depression, etc...

there's some overlap here, some people use cannabis to prevent/control seizures, to treat anxiety or depression, and don't feel side effects.

The experience of the common person who has tried cannabis once or twice and turned away isn't necessarily anything like the experience of someone who benefits from it.

You wouldn't say that a person with ADHD shouldn't drive on ADHD meds, but for anyone else, that would be effectively like driving on cocaine.

Some people should, in fact, not be driving while not under the influence of cannabis or another treatment for conditions that could make them unsafe drivers.


Stimulants have been shown to decrease your risk of accidents multiple times. Cannabis on the other hand has been shown to impair you ability to react, pay attention to multiple tasks, your metacognition... There's a huge difference here.

If you drive frequently, maybe cannabis isn't a good idea for you to take to manage your anxiety, depression, or seizure control. If there's not a drug out there that helps you that does not make you a danger to others, then tough shit, you shouldn't be driving.

Driving is not a right, driving is not something everyone should be able to do. I think I would be a sub par driver, and so I don't drive. I pay more money to live in the city close to public transit. I don't say "it will probably be ok" and endanger other drivers, and this would be especially true if I actually needed pot to function.


> Driving is not a right, driving is not something everyone should be able to do. I think I would be a sub par driver, and so I don't drive. I pay more money to live in the city close to public transit. I don't say "it will probably be ok" and endanger other drivers, and this would be especially true if I actually needed pot to function.

While it is true that driving is not a right, this is an extremely narrow view. Especially in small municipalities (0-80000 people) transit is often poor and/or nonexistent, and downtown/commercial areas rarely have residences built or even nearby. Everyone relies on driving. In fact, the highschool I'm from offered free drivers ed, as a part of highschool.

Everyone has to drive and few people are sub-par drivers.

People drive impaired [alcohol, painkillers, anger, phones, passengers, weather, radio, stressors] all the time. That's not the point. The point is how much do we allow people to drive impaired. In the case of BAC, 0.05-0.08 is a common tolerance. This is not "zero," as people seem to think. Yep. You can have a beer (or two) and still be well within legal limits.

I'm not a libertarian by any means but we have very strict penalties already for people who kill others in vehicle accidents. I want to see INFORMED legislation not "i'm too scared to drive so nobody should ever do it unless they are of a perfectly clear mind and the road conditions are perfect."

Not everyone has the luxury of ordering an uber or hopping on a train for a few minutes to get home.


If your lifestyle makes you a danger to others, then you need to change your lifestyle. If that implies moving to a large city, then that trumps your desire to remain in a small municipality.

I think that many people are sub-par drivers, and that's why you see the horrible rates of accidents that you do today.

The point is not penalizing the behavior after it's happened, it's deterring it before it does. Informed legislation already has a situation like this -- we don't care if alcoholics have a blood alcohol of .09 and can obviously function, if they're above that level of impairment, then they are arrested for driving under the influence. It's better to be too restrictive than to lenient when it comes to potential manslaughter.


> If your lifestyle makes you a danger to others, then you need to change your lifestyle. If that implies moving to a large city, then that trumps your desire to remain in a small municipality.

Sorry—desire? Some people may chose to live in small municipalities, some don't chose. Some are forced to by their way of life (e.g. consider the people who grow your food).

I don't live in a small municipality. I'm merely pointing out the fact that your way of life is merely one way of living and is totally ignorant of the reality of many other people's experiences.


You're very rarely forced to do anything in life. My family has been in small farm agriculture for multiple generations.

Coincidentally they don't smoke pot and drive, because they're not inconsiderate, life endangering assholes.

My point still stands, that if you choose to take treatment that impairs your ability to drive, then you shouldn't drive. If driving is important to you, you should choose other treatment if you can. If you can't, then you shouldn't drive.


> You're very rarely forced to do anything in life. My family has been in small farm agriculture for multiple generations.

> Coincidentally they don't smoke pot and drive, because they're not inconsiderate, life endangering assholes.

Then there's a good chance that they consume liquor and get behind the wheel instead. I know a lot of farmers, and this is a pretty universal truism.

Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything but people generally don't feel compelled to uproot their lives/livelihood because someone far away is trying to tell them what's good for them. Because especially in farm communities, drinking and driving is most likely to cause endangerment to yourself, not others. Not much to hit on grid roads.


> You wouldn't say that a person with ADHD shouldn't drive on ADHD meds, but for anyone else, that would be effectively like driving on cocaine.

I thought it was pretty interesting actually, the big chart in the linked article suggests that stimulants actually lower the likelihood of an accident compared to a baseline.


I once had to drive myself few hundred kilometers back home after a discharge from a psych ward - i was taking some new variation of activisation pill intended to make me less apathetic. While usually I am super careful, will yield/brake preventively to avoid an accident (haven't had one yet - in big part thanks to mindfulness and survival instict) - in the begining that medicine just threw it out the window. I quite literally YOLO'd head on with an 18-wheeler because my brain just went OVERTAKE NOW, BITCH. (did not crash, it was just incredibly stupid and tight) Took me some time to adjust and stop being riddiculously reckless.

Same with nausea suppression pills for travel. I was once made to drive after taking one.

I'd venture to say that the lower likelyhood of an accident while on cocaine would come from most people that not pay any goddamn attention to anything, frantically scanning everything: the road, traffic, road shoulder, pedestrains, etc, etc


How did you "quite literally" have a crash that didn't happen?


I think emp_zealoth quite literally passed a vehicle while an oncoming semi was in the opposing lane. A "close call" if you will.


If you have never taken ADHD stimulants before then you might experience a little bit of euphoria the first few days of stimulant therapy, due to lack of tolerance, but I doubt it would be an impairment to driving.

Source: I've been taking methamphetamine (prescribed) for ADHD for quite some time. I experienced a little euphoria the first week when I initially started treatment on amphetamines but it was nothing even close to what I would consider impairment.


People really, really shouldn't be driving under those conditions, either.


Yes, all those things affect your ability to drive. You shouldn't text and drive, but people do it, etc. I would say being stoned is a lot worse than the other things you listed though:

- When you're tired, you can have a cup of coffee and wake up a bit and regain some of that focus. You can't drink a red bull and suddenly be way less high.

- If you send a text or two while driving, you're not paying attention to the road for a few moments (which is admittedly still crazy dangerous). If you drive stoned - you're driving less safely the entire time you're driving. The combination of the two is even worse.

- Having a heart condition doesn't mean you're going to necessarily have a heart attack every time you drive - there's just a higher risk that something might happen. Even in that case, you may be able to stop/pull over. Once again, if you drive stoned - you're driving less safely the entire time you're driving.

- You can have a backup pair of glasses, you can pull over, etc.

But my main point - just because there are other things that can make the already insanely dangerous activity of driving more risky, doesn't make driving high less bad.


> - When you're tired, you can have a cup of coffee and wake up a bit and regain some of that focus. You can't drink a red bull and suddenly be way less high.

Actually, there are terpenes in cannabis that mitigate many of the confusing effects, which can be found in foods such as black peppercorns and pine nuts. Pliny the Elder wrote about this; see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165946/ So yes, there are ways to get "less high."

Not advocating that driving while high/texting/tired is a good idea, just trying to enlighten about some of the fascinating science behind Cannabis.


This is really interesting - thanks for the link. I'd be curious to see how effective that is in real life.


Stoned is ambiguous though. Nobody thinks it's ok to drive with a BAC of 0.4 but 0.04 is generally considered legal.

The question becomes what's Stoned? Detectable is not a reasonable limit nor is can't stand up.


> Nobody thinks it's ok to drive with a BAC of 0.4 but 0.04 is generally considered legal.

Unfortunately, even 0.04 can get you arrested in California.

The BAC limit is simply when the DMV automatically pulls your license. You can be convicted of DWI/DUI at any BAC in California.

Now, you aren't likely to get pulled over at BAC less than 0.05, but if you do get pulled over, you can still get convicted for it.


BAC exists because a test exists to easily measure it. Breathalyzers aren't perfect, but they're good enough for government work.

I think an actual blood test is the only thing we got for MJ. That's invasive, and not likely something officers will be able to do at a traffic stop.


> Nobody thinks it's ok to drive with a BAC of 0.4 but 0.04 is generally considered legal.

Not sure how you come to that conclusion. I think it's reasonable to assume it's legal because most people (including me) feel it's fine. I'm much more concerned about distracted driving generally.


A BAC of 0.04 is measurably impaired though. Mostly in terms of higher brain functions and reaction times making it both less obvious and often within a persons 'normal' range.

Something to remember is people generally drink late in the day. So, the accident statistics mix drinking and tired data. Tired driving makes things far worse, but it's hard to test for as accidents and being pulled over both tend to wake people up. Pot on the other hand is more often a daytime drug which is going to mess with the statistics.


> If pot is proven to not affect your driving to a measurable degree

What??


The very second sentence of the article reads:

"And after adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, drivers who tested positive for marijuana were no more likely to crash than who had not used any drugs or alcohol prior to driving."

Edit: Just in case in the future anyone comes across my comment out of context of this thread, I'd like to add that without seeing further research I'm not personally convinced by that statement.


Since testing positive just means that you might have used anytime in the past month or so, that's not meaningful.

The study linked in the article confirms that yes, according to the evidence seen, marijuana significantly impairs driving ability, especially among casual users (to the surprise of no one whose actually used it I'm sure).


From the article

And after adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, drivers who tested positive for marijuana were no more likely to crash than who had not used any drugs or alcohol prior to driving.


You have to take into account that the population under study -- drivers who tested positive for marijuana -- are people who consumed some amount of marijuana AND judged themselves capable of driving. Some pot smokers will exclude themselves from this population because they estimate that they can no longer drive safely -- myself being one of them. So from this study you cannot conclude that, in general, smoking pot does not affect your driving skills.


Yes you can conclude that precisely because you don't lose the ability to know when you've had too much. Unlike alcohol, pot doesn't affect your ability to judge that.


That's not what that means, though. All that says is that testing positive for marijuana doesn't provide a meaningful measurement of impairment. It does not mean pot doesn't impact your driving.


Everything impacts your driving, unless you can show that driving while high is an actual problem that needs solved (it isn't) then there's no justification for any laws about it.


Your analogy is terrible. Marijuana is not comparable to anything you can buy over the counter. Unless you chug a bottle of cough syrup and then drive, which is just as illegal as driving drunk or stoned.


Actually I think there are a lot of things over the counter that affect you more than marijuana.

Have you taken Dramamine (the regular drowsy version)? If I take 1 pill I can sort of keep awake but I wouldn't try to drive unless it was an emergency. Taking 2 pills makes me so drowsy that I would not drive safely by any chance.

Those are the recommended dosages by the way, so no need to consume the whole bottle or box of that like with cough syrup. And that's just one of the myriad of different things you can get over the counter that can easily impair your driving.

So yes, I think the analogy is right to a degree (like all analogies). Even though marijuana does definitely change the way you perceive things and thus driving might not be something recommended to do, the GP's point is that a lot of people already drive under the influence of a lot of other substances, some of them potentially much more dangerous than marijuana.

Obviously part of the problem is that different people will react differently to marijuana, so like stated elsewhere in the thread, a regular user (like a functional alcoholic) might be able to drive "ok" and have no accidents but someone that is trying it for the first time, getting a particularly potent batch and then trying to drive is going to increase the chances of an accident greatly.

That doesn't mean I condone being fucked up (with whatever) and driving, but the GP has a point in that we are already living in a world where people are driving and doing other dangerous things while under the influence of "stuff". That also explains partly why driving is so dangerous and why so many people die each year from a driving-related incident.

Edit: So maybe we shouldn't be single-ing out marijuana as "the" bad stuff that causes accidents while behind the wheel and take a more "big-picture" kind of view. One of the reasons why self-driving cars are a good idea.


Agreed. I'm a pretty big guy, and one Benadryl is like getting shot in the ass with a tranquilizer dart. (I think the dosage is "1-2".)

No way would I drive after that.


That isn't what the article was saying.

I do find it a bit unfair to compare daily smokers to functional alcoholics, however - there is a definite difference in the way the drugs affect folks. This was the main point of the article. A slight buzz like that of a daily smoker - or someone using for medical reasons - isn't affecting safety, but going more than that and it should be obvious. Be safe and all that.

Besides. Part of the issue is that public transportation lacking in a lot of parts of the country. Some folks just don't have options, even things like Uber, and if you live just slightly out of the way, such things wind up costing even more money. If you are drunk, you can get arrested in some places (indiana) for walking home - instant public intoxication charge. Still more places don't have safe options to walk or ride bikes if you are impared. These things need fixed to be able to do what you are encouraging.


The key point in the article is actually the tests used. THC stays in the body long (days/weeks) after you're no longer impaired.

If a breathalyzer test on Tuesday picked up the beer you had last Saturday, there'd be no correlation between that test and accidents, either. (and no one would approve of using such a test for law enforcement).


Yes, this is a key problem with the study. THC metabolites are cleared very slowly. Testing positive indicates that you used marijuana within a week or two. It doesn't mean that you're stoned.

For alcohol, a comparable test might look at long-term changes in liver biochemistry associated with alcohol consumption. In that case, there probably wouldn't be any correlation with accident rates.


Blood tests can directly measure THC. The article seems to be talking about such tests.

The problem is that there is not a well established mapping between THC levels and impairment. It isn't even clear if such a mapping can be done.


Maybe there's a key distinction between THC levels in the blood and bioavailable THC. THC is extremely lipophilic, so it might get trapped for degradation.


> If a breathalyzer test on Tuesday picked up the beer you had last Saturday, there'd be no correlation between that test and accidents, either.

Not sure that's true: if the alcohol was still in your blood that long, it would still be affecting you and impairing function.


> These things need fixed to be able to do what you are encouraging.

Lack of transportation, other options or the public intoxication charges should not and cannot ever be an acceptable reason for driving while impaired.

If you indulge, don't drive. Period.

There is no option B. The only acceptable solution, if you have to get behind a wheel and drive, is to abstain from any impairing consumption.


>If you are drunk, you can get arrested in some places (indiana) for walking home - instant public intoxication charge.

If you're so drunk that you'd get pulled over as a pedestrian, then you most certainly should not be driving.

>Still more places don't have safe options to walk or ride bikes if you are impared. These things need fixed to be able to do what you are encouraging.

How about some personal responsibility? Society isn't responsible for enabling people's drinking. If you can't get home without driving, then don't drink (or if it's a long visit, have only one or two, at the beginning).


I don't think you understand. If you are legally drunk - blow a .08 on the test - you can get a public intoxication charge. It is that simple.

All that takes is living out of town and walking down the main route to your house and someone stopping and smelling alcohol.

It is great to put that theoretical thing in place. But people do, occasionally, mess up. I rarely went to bars because of transportation - others, not so much. Alcohol impairs judgement as, and if the options aren't there and easy to use, it is more likely that folks will drive drunk.


The law in Indiana was adjusted in 2012.

http://sftlawyers.com/new-indiana-public-intoxication-law-go...


Cool. Been living out of the country for a few years, didn't know that :D Thanks muchly. I was always hopeful that my walking home wasn't interrupted by cops and took alternate routes at times. This should have been the case years ago.


Look, honestly most cops have better things to do than arrest a person walking home from a bar and not bothering anyone. Yeah public intoxication is a thing and there are a few dick cops who will, but for the most part you don't have to worry about it. The cops around here don't arrest for public intox or even weed possession anymore because they know it will get bargained down to a fine and maybe court supervision (though if you are causing other problems or being an asshole they might). This is firsthand from a local cop. They just have a lot more serious things to worry about.


"If you're so drunk that you'd get pulled over as a pedestrian, then you most certainly should not be driving."

Or you could just be walking while black (or hispanic, etc.).


Are you really blaming racism for DUIs?


No, I'm saying that you don't have to be visibly drunk to be stopped by police, especially if you're a minority.


I think he's blaming racism for public intox.


> I worry that people read studies like this and suddenly justify going out and driving while impaired.

The keyword here is "impaired." It doesn't just have to involve drugs, being exhausted and attempting to drive is also very dangerous. Not just for you, but for everyone else on/near the road.


This is true, don't immediately after waking up, when very tired, etc..


It is nothing like functional alcoholism. Marijuana does not cause someone to become overconfident and make stupid decisions and take risks, and it doesn't cause any significant change in reaction time when used regularly. But, of course, a functional alcoholic would probably drive drunk slightly more safely than someone who rarely drinks. But the direct CNS effects of alcohol make alcohol a pretty direct safety risk in ways that marijuana is not.

Also, do you support the .08 legal limit for alcohol? That's about two drinks for most people. If you do, do you think Marijuana should be any different? Why could I have two drinks, but not two joints?


Agreed. I think the value of results like this is to challenge selection biases. I have family in Colorado where marijuana was recently legalized, an action I support despite never smoking it nor having desire to. They're worried about the legalization resulting in everyone driving high, and they constantly cite 1 incident where someone rear-ended a cop while high. It's illogical to take anything from a single incident simply because it was relevant enough to make headlines and ignore all the other different incidents that don't make headlines because there's nothing novel about them.


Statements like this one are baseless, unscientific, and fearmongering:

"Do not read this and think it's okay to drive high. It's not. Do not drive high."

MAYBE this is correct. But it is also possible that being stoned is benign compared to allergy medication, sleep apnea symptoms, general fatigue, texting while driving, and a hundred other causes of risk, enough to make it hard to distinguish driving while stoned as an seperable risk factor.

The downside of statements like this is that they perpetuate a fear-driven enforcement model that will cost many people thousands to tens of thousands of dollars for infractions that are not making anyone safer. And there are opportunists ready to enrich themselves on that basis.


You're incorrect and you're incorrectly equating pot to alcohol as if the effects were remotely similar, they are not.

> And after adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, drivers who tested positive for marijuana were no more likely to crash than who had not used any drugs or alcohol prior to driving.

That means users who are too high to drive know it, and don't. It also means you can drive high as long as you're not too high without adversely affecting safety.

Pot is not alcohol, it does not belong in that mold and there's absolutely no reason to single it out of the multitude of other things that can impair driving. Alcohol is a special case precisely because it impairs your judgement.


> I worry that people read studies like this and suddenly justify going out and driving while impaired

I don't know about that, I think the people who want to do that will just find another excuse. Especially potheads, who seem to be unable to acknowledge that anything exists in this world that isn't helped by pot. Driving? probably better if you do while high. Seizures? Pot is now the only accepted option man. Broken back? Here have a pot brownie.


Well I can say for certain when I take certain allergy meds I know I can't drive for crap. So I usually stay in. And when at work I just deal with the allergies as is since I have a long commute home since the last time I tried driving on allergy meds made it hard to concentrate. So, I can imagine it's not much better driving high on pot.


The article didn't say that it's safe at all - just that the measurement of THC in the blood doesn't tell you if someone is impaired. If someone knows they are high, they're probably at much more risk than the people with THC in their blood discussed in the article.


Impaired has meaning, there might be different levels of impairment and that is what worries me most. People vastly over estimate their driving skills when sober.

Which by the way, you ever want to see just how good you are in reality, go do one of the racing related or defensive driving course. Ouch.


I disagree.

Most days when I get out of work the first thing I do is smoke with my Pax2 as I walk to my car.

I then drive home 'high'. I've done this most of my adult life. Smoking Pot and driving has zero negative effects on my driving. In fact, just as the article points out, I am more likely to drive more safely and take it easy.

Also, for what its worth, there are two types of strains - Sativa and Indica.

Indica is the type that knocks you out and makes you sit on the couch doing nothing; Sativa's, for me anyway, gives a focused, up buzz that makes me sharper and more alert.

I am a Sativa-only guy and for me smoking and then dealing with rush-hour traffic is how I prefer things. If you are saying people shouldn't smoke an indica heavy strain and then drive, I could see that argument but, in my experience, it's still safer than alcohol. But yes, generally, I would agree with that.

Sativa's though, no way, that just doesn't make sense based on my personal experience.


> but I don't think it's okay to pretend that it's safe to get high and go driving.

I agree, but I also think it's more nuanced than that. Sure, at the extremes you're totally right. Though take a daily smoker who doses themselves with a predictable and regular amount... that person is very likely not impaired, or at least not more impaired than somebody who's behind the wheel while they're tired.

I think the reality is very complicated... and that makes accurate laws really hard to create. It certainly is easier to just say "you can't have any THC in your body while you're driving"... but I don't agree with that and I don't have a better suggestion honestly.


Did you read the article? What facts are you even basing your claims on?


Alcohol has two synergetic problems for drivers... it reduces reflexes and increases confidence, simultaneously. Less capable, and more aggressive. No wonder it's so awful for drivers.

Marijuana doesn't significantly impair reflexes (as generations of musicians have shown). As for judgment, it tends to make users more cautious, not more aggressive. They're not trying to get around that car in front of them to blow through the used-to-be-yellow light - they're trying to make sure they remember where they're going...


I disagree. Marijuana can impair reflexes significantly, at least for some individuals. My high school drivers education class (1979) had an electronic device used to measure brake reflex time. The device had simulated accelerator and brake pedals. A red lamp would light to signal the need to brake. I believe the average response time for most teens was around 250ms. I smoked pot nearly everyday during this period of my life. On the day our class was put to the brake response test I showed up high, as usual. I scored over 1 second on the response test. The instructor at first thought I was putting him on. He reset the device and had me try again. The response time was the same. I'll also admit that during this time I had episodes where I would "zone out" while driving high on pot. I would not remember a significant portion of the drive I had just undertaken.

My read of the article referenced is that current measurement techniques for Marijuana do not accurately correlate with driver impairment. That's not the same thing as stating Marijuana impaired drivers are safer than ones intoxicated with alcohol.


I am curious, did smoking every day affect you permanently in any way?

I have used cannabis recreationally a few times, and each time I feel slightly mentally impaired (slow thinking) for days afterward. It has completely scared me off from using it further.


I was a daily pot smoker for about three years (ages 15-18). My consumption gradually decreased over the next four years until I stopped completely. I couldn't say if pot was responsible for any cognitive impairment. I do have a poorer memory than most of my peers. I'd be quicker to blame my poor memory on the multiple concussions I've had over the years than on my pot consumption. Marijuana exacerbated my very introverted personality. It's possible my social development was crippled to some degree. I'm not good with the people.

I do know a few individuals who have smoked pot regularly for decades. I don't see cannabis having had any negative effects on them or their families. They are intelligent, successful people in long term stable relationships.


I smoked every day for years, quit ages ago. I don't feel any permanent impairment at all.

Having known a lot of older daily smokers (decades) and older alcoholics, alcohol is a lot more damaging, both mentally and physically. I've never seen anyone die in their 40s from marijuana, but I've seen a few people eventually lose that battle with their liver or their kidneys from alcohol. Older alcoholics can be almost shockingingly stupid, too - far worse than young alcoholics.


Your pot/music comparison to show reflexes being unaffected doesn't really work when the music industry has a long history of drug abuse of all kinds, including alcohol. It's not very hard to find stories or even videos of musicians being drunk and playing great shows. It is almost a cliche to have images of legendary musicians drinking from bottles of hard liquor while on stage.


Playing music also has very little to do with reacting to unexpected events.


Depends on the kind of music you play.


> Marijuana doesn't significantly impair reflexes (as generations of musicians have shown).

As an aside, is music really reliant on reflexes like this? I would assume that the beat of a song gives one plenty of forewarning as to when a melody might change.

And that assumes that the rhythm of a melody doesn't put you in am altered, hypnotic state in other ways.


The original association of marijuana and music is in jazz, and playing while stoned is still as much norm as exception among jazz musicians. Jazz is a form of structured improvisation. The raw music actually isn't that complex. What's complex is trying to make a new statement with that music on the fly, while simultaneously listening closely to other musicians in the band, who are making their own statements. Done right, it feels like two (or more) minds thinking as one.

So yes, in addition to the physical reflexes needed to play difficult instruments gracefully, there's a lot of in-the-moment reflex in responding to the music and your fellow musicians.


> while simultaneously listening closely to other musicians in the band, who are making their own statements

Ostensibly, yes. In practice, usually only one person at a time is playing a solo over a predetermined and repeating chord progression.


Oh, no. That's not jazz at all! The soloist isn't the only person improvising. The rest of the band is supporting the soloist by improvising. The chords themselves aren't simple, static devices. There is plenty of room for expression and communication. A soloist needs to be on their toes, ready for the drummer to just rework the groove for laughs. A bass player needs to catch on to some rhythmic motif the soloist is using, and be ready to drive them home when the soloist does.

Even within totally composed music, a lot of attention is required to keep timing in sync. Performing live music in a group setting requires a great deal of attention to what's going on outside your own mind.


The reflexes come in with being able to make complex and delicate movements required to actually use an instrument. It's kind of like touch typing but more so, for music to sound smooth those movements have to just "happen" rather than being explicitly thought out.


Right, but that seems more like fine motor skills than reflexes, no?


Depends. If you are randomly jamming with friends and someone is too stoned, he's going to have one hell of a time trying to keep up if you suddenly go from a slow repetitive bluesy riff to something more rock & roll.


> As an aside, is music really reliant on reflexes like this?

Absolutely. The ability to recover from a mistake without anyone knowing.


Sometimes you aren't even consciously aware until after the fact, it feels like a direct ear-fingers connection without consciousness mediating it.


Jazz musicians and other improvisational music require fast reactions to other players.


But I still wonder if that's not a different skill. Significant changes to the melody still come on the beat. The same can't be said to you driving down the road and the car ahead of you slams on the brakes.

Talented musicians of all sort can learn how to improvise, but it's a learned skill, not simply "hey, different music means I do something different!" It's an acquired skill that means training your ear to create cohesive melodies.


As someone who both plays improvisational music and loves driving, they're very much the same feeling to me. It's a mixture of predictability and surprise. (And no, I don't drive intoxicated, I've had a total of two moving violations in 30+ years of driving, and I haven't been involved in an accident in 15 years - I'm a lot more daring with a guitar than with a car!)

Musicians tend to either play high or play sober, consistently. I'm consistently sober. However, I've heard recordings of myself playing under the influence of marijuana, and cannot hear a difference. Alcohol, on the other hand, wrecks me musically. Beyond a three-beer limit, my playing becomes a litany of technical mistakes and bad ideas. I won't drink more than a beer while playing music, because it makes me suck.


"Super High Me" (on Netflix) has a fair amount of experimentation around this - in one specific case the narrator/subject does a SAT and showed both augmented and diminished faculties in different disciplines. It's obviously far off from a scientific study but interesting none-the-less.


Not really reflexes per se; as reflexes don't involve any higher brain function. One doesn't rely on reflexes for driving. Reaction time on the other hand is an entirely different matter...


I've driven high plenty of times in the past (not anymore though) and the issue is not one of reflexes or judgement, but attention. Being high makes you really easily distracted, and, in my experience, more likely to take your eyes off the road for longer periods of time. That's where the risk comes from.


I know a few people (myself included) who claim to get impaired by marijuana. While I don't drink and drive myself, some of that crowd do, but, they never smoke and drive.

Not only is there the correlation as described in the article, I've also seen (p=0) much more honest self-evaluation on marijuana.


> Marijuana doesn't significantly impair reflexes (as generations of musicians have shown).

What reflexes do you need while playing an instrument?


> "At the current time, specific drug concentration levels cannot be reliably equated with a specific degree of driver impairment"

Massively leading title given the statement actually issued, and their own remarks later on:

> There's plenty of evidence showing that marijuana use impairs key driving skills[0]. If you get really stoned and then get behind the wheel, you're asking for trouble.

[0]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23220273


But if they told the truth, they wouldn't get upvoted to the front page.


From the comments here, it seems like people either didn't read the article, or just don't believe the study, because it pretty much says it is ok to smoke and drive.

  For marijuana, and for a number of other legal and illegal
  drugs including antidepressants, painkillers, stimulants
  and the like, there is no statistically significant change
  in the risk of a crash associated with using that drug
  prior to driving.


From your comment, you clearly read neither the article nor the study. I mean, the article states "There's plenty of evidence showing that marijuana use impairs key driving skills. If you get really stoned and then get behind the wheel, you're asking for trouble" and the study itself cites plenty of other studies which have found strong positive associations between marijuana use and driving impairments.

What it actually shows is that for one particular study the increase in crashes resulting from users testing positive for marijuana (i.e. have used up to a week ago) becomes statistically insignificant when controlling for user demographics. It also threw up anomalies like a [statistically insignificant] improvement in drivers under the influence of smaller amounts of alcohol over no alcohol or drugs, so I wouldn't exactly herald it as definitive.

To argue that they "pretty much says it is ok to smoke and drive" is a grotesque distortion of the actual research.


So, we have "impairs key driving skills" versus "no statistically significant change in the risk of a crash". It sounds a bit like in vitro vs. in vivo results. At the end of the day, I'm more concerned about risk factors that actually lead to accidents on the roads.

Why doesn't "key driving skill" impairment from marijuana appear to increase the risk of a crash? My best guess is that stoned drivers are concerned about being pulled over and are able to compensate more than 1) someone impaired but not aware/concerned enough to compensate (e.g. tired or distracted drivers) or 2) someone worried about getting pulled over but unable to compensate as well for their impairment (e.g. drunk drivers).


I suspect drivers under the influence being cautious is a factor.

I suspect majority of drivers testing positive for cannabis were not actually remotely close to being stoned at the time they were driving plays a huge role too (possibly also overzealous demographic controls). That's consistent with the study authors' observations that other studies based on accidents which rely on self-reported cannabis use show it to have a large effect on accident rates, and studies which rely on testing to show it has little or no discernible impact on accident rates. They consider the studies relying on testing to be superior in construction. Based on the well-established fact that cannabis use tends to show up in standard tests days after its main effects have worn off, I beg to differ.


Skepticism is healthy. It's quite common for mainstream media to distill a study with tons of caveats and situational results to clickbait like "drinking alcohol means you'll live longer". Not to mention we shouldn't draw any conclusions until reading the paper itself because the article says nothing of their methodology. Lastly with things like the replication crisis and other shoddy results, I don't blame people for not being so fast to believe what common sense would tell them otherwise. [0]

Edit, case in point, caveats from the paper itself:

> While the findings of this case control study were equivocal with regard to the crash risk associated with drug use by drivers, these results do not indicate that drug use by drivers is risk-free. The study limitations cited above, together with the findings of numerous other studies using different and complementary methods, need to be carefully considered before more definitive conclusions about drug use and crash risk can be reached.

> The findings of this study notwithstanding, the established body of scientific evidence on the subject of drug impairment indicates that in some situations, drugs other than alcohol can seriously impair driving ability.

Oh, and you really should read articles all the way through:

> So, should we all assume that we're safe to blaze one and go for a joyride whenever the whimsy strikes us? Absolutely not. There's plenty of evidence showing that marijuana use impairs key driving skills. If you get really stoned and then get behind the wheel, you're asking for trouble.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis


I think you're completely misreading the study. The conclusion that you quote says -nothing- about the safety of using those drugs and driving, just compares them to marijuana.

Note: those drugs come with warnings either recommending against driving or observing your reaction to the drug before driving.

Not: "you can, so, good to go".

I don't smoke. I work in EMS. I see many many positive medical and recreational uses. My partner is a recreational, daily smoker. I have no bias here.

I'm just pointing out that you're extrapolating from the quote above something that it doesn't say. No comment is made about the safety of those drug classes and driving, and indeed your extrapolation makes you as guilty of inference as you say others are:

"Well, I don't see any impact when I use those drugs and drive, so I don't see a problem".


As I mentioned in my other comment, people do not want to hear about studies or other data indicating that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol. They just do not want to hear it.


I can't argue with this data, but I have to wonder how much tolerance/individuality plays a role in this. I know that I personally could not drive high on THC, my propensity to zone out would almost certainly result in an accident, but I (used to) have friends who drove regularly during and after partaking and I was completely confident in their abilities.

Personally, I think prohibitionists/law enforcement is looking for an easy money-grab and are hunting for justification of their desires rather than responding to an actual harmful issue that society is facing.


The headline is simply a lie. The study basically showed that you cannot measure whether someone is stoned by testing their blood for THC. The blood test only proves they were stoned at some point in the past few weeks.

The study did not show that it's safe to drive while stoned, and if you read the entire article they're fairly clear about that.


> The study did not show that it's safe to drive while stoned, and if you read the entire article they're fairly clear about that.

Which is exactly what I can't argue with. My point was in reference to the conclusion of the article, which states,

> So, should we all assume that we're safe to blaze one and go for a joyride whenever the whimsy strikes us? Absolutely not. There's plenty of evidence showing that marijuana use impairs key driving skills. If you get really stoned and then get behind the wheel, you're asking for trouble.

We apparently cannot map concentrations of THC to driver impairment. Which agrees with my anecdotal experience in the matter, that the effects THC vary greatly with individuals.


>> I can't argue with this data, but I have to wonder how much tolerance/individuality plays a role in this.

A ton. Someone who only drinks a couple times a year and drives home drunk from a wedding or something and isn't used to it is a lot more unsafe than someone who goes to happy hour every day and drives home all the time like that.


Maybe on a per-event basis, but probably not on an annual basis.


This means nothing. The big difference between alcohol and other drugs is that there is a relatively straightforward correlation between the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream and the current effect of alcohol on the brain.

Somebody testing positive for marijuana may not be stoned at all. It could be they were stoned last week and tested positive.

Furthermore, alcohol testing is much easier and is the only type of testing really done by police in the field. Police will try to get you to admit being impaired by other drugs if they stop you, but they do not have anything like the breathalyzer to test for other drugs.

Current data comparing driving impairment of various drugs and alcohol is almost entirely an artifact of the difference in testing methods.


Yes, the only thing anyone should take away from this data is, we currently do not have reliable data on impairment vs intoxication on THC. Need controlled studies to collect it


I remember an article on this in New Scientist back in the 90s that went into a lot more depth. A study showed that while alcohol impaired multiple aspects of driving skill marijuana mostly impaired just time judgement. And stoned drivers tended to overestimate their level of impairment and slow down while drunk drivers tended to underestimate how impaired they were. They actually found that drivers who were moderately drunk and stoned were less likely to crash than drivers who were just moderately drunk because they slowed down even though they were more impaired.


Right, there's more involved than just the impairment itself. I was just about to ask if this had something to with stoned drivers driving more carefully just to avoid harsher penalties for possession. Data from states where pot is legal would be interesting.


In this case the subjects were given substances in a lab and then used a driving simulator.


I'm going to upgrade my view of this article to linkbait title. The title should be, "THC found to not correlate with impairment in the same way that blood alcohol concentration does".

From the article:

> The study's findings underscore an important point: that the measurable presence of THC (marijuana's primary active ingredient) in a person's system doesn't correlate with impairment in the same way that blood alcohol concentration does.

The story here is that there is no "THC impairment" test like there is a blood alcohol test, not that driving while stoned is safer.


You can distort the data all you want, or in this case, put it in an absurd context to try and prove a point, but the fact remains - the legalization of marijuana is not without negative consequences.

I'm surprised no one here has mentioned AAA's findings (legalization followed by a 2x increase in fatal marijuana-related crashes): http://newsroom.aaa.com/2016/05/fatal-road-crashes-involving...

EDIT: Link to the study [PDF]: http://publicaffairsresources.aaa.biz/wp-content/uploads/201...


The study you linked has the same error that almost all of these 'studies' have. "The percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who recently used marijuana more than doubled from eight to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014." So they are testing the blood of deceased people, finding the presence of THC (which can remain the blood for weeks), and calling them 'marijuana-related crashes'.

So quite literally by their own definition, someone could smoke some weed, a week later get drunk, go driving, crash, and now this is a 'marijuana related' crash?

I don't buy it.


The study may have flaws (as all do), but it's a whole lot more conclusive than a claim such as "Stoned drivers are a lot safer than drunk ones, new federal data show", a statement obviously trying to imply that marijuana is somehow safe for drivers, when it's obviously not.

One could compare marijuana-related accidents to any number of other dangerous activities and make it look safe in comparison.

Why try and encourage something that is clearly dangerous and irresponsible? This article (especially the headline) is incredibly dangerous and misleading, as it's apparently trying to get people to respond with something like "see, marijuana doesn't harm anyone," when in reality, it does.


> The study may have flaws (as all do)

This isn't "a flaw", it's a fatal flaw that invalidates the study. You're missing the point; saying marijuana-related accidents is itself an invalid statement as there is not way to quantify that correctly. You can therefore not conclude anything from marijuana-related anything other than people who want to control other people are happy to use invalid statistics to try and impose their will where it isn't welcome.

> Why try and encourage something that is clearly dangerous and irresponsible?

Because it is not dangerous and irresponsible, that's your assumption, it is not a fact in evidence.


Driving while high should definitely be banned, but it kind of seems like they're making a big assumption here.

>The percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who recently used marijuana more than doubled from eight to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014.

How are they ruling out the fact that since it's been legalized, more people in general are using marijuana?


> How are they ruling out the fact that since it's been legalized, more people in general are using marijuana?

That's exactly the point. No one is trying to say that driving high has gotten more dangerous as a result of legalization - just that it's inherently dangerous (and a certain percentage of marijuana users are going to be driving either way), so legalization only contributes to more usage, leading to more irresponsible decisions on the road.


>Also, results of this study do not indicate that drivers with detectable THC in their blood at the time of the crash we re necessarily impaired by THC or that they were at-fault for the crash; the data availabl e cannot be used to assess whether a given driver was actually impaired, and examination of fault in individual crashes was beyond the scope of this study

If there was a general increase in accidents, I think you would have a point, but all this conclusively demonstrates is that there has been an increase of marijuana usage among the population of Washington. The thing about how these drug tests work, is that they do not test impairment or if someone was high at the time, but if they were high within the past few hours to days. I think you're misunderstanding, that even if there is THC in someone's bloodstream, it does not mean they are high. It is possible that none of the drivers in the study were high at the time of their crashes, and all of them smoked the day before. It is also possible that every single one was high during the collision. Due to the nature of the testing, the linked study is not very conclusive on at least what you're trying to prove from it.


My point is: They're getting this data by doing drug tests of drivers in fatal car crashes after the crash has occurred. Previously, 8% of those drivers had cannabis detected. Now, 17% have it detected.

What evidence is there that the increased cannabis use is causing these crashes, considering you have to control for the fact that more people in general are using cannabis, so in almost any population (drivers in fatal car crashes; fast food employees; school teachers; whatever) you could expect to see an increase in use.


Ah, I understand what you're saying now. Still, I think it'd be a stretch to assume that none of those fatalities were actually related to the marijuana use. But I agree, it doesn't necessarily imply causation, just a correlation (which as you say, could in part be coincidental).


It's a fine assumption. We could also assume that marijuana use discourages use while under the influence due to increased paranoia. Neither have been demonstrated yet.

All we know from this is that there was a increased detection of thc for people involved in fatal accidents. The reason for this seems obvious to me and I assume it correlates with general increased use among the population. I still conject that "fatal" accidents are used here to push a particular narrative. I don't see any significance in "fatal" versus cumulative accidents or DUI arrests.

If the intent is to prove that there is an increased hazard on the road due to marijuana use, then they need to prove that it's use significantly increases this hazard AND that the rate of drivers under influence has increased. Those are two separate and independent studies.

I'm still waiting to see those studies.


That's exactly what this particular study is trying to measure - whether there's a causative link. And they didn't find one (subject to the precision of their study, of course). Basically, yes, more people have higher blood levels, but this does not translate to more accidents.


You're right, it probably is a stretch. But since they have not demonstrated any evidence either way, the study basically has to be disregarded.


I doubt there is any. Else they would have quoted a cumulative increase in fatalities.


> Driving while high should definitely be banned

As there's no valid means of determining "while high", this is simply not a rational thing to attempt to do. Additionally, there's no data supporting that driving while high is actually a problem that needs solving, specifically that people don't know they're too high and drive anyway. You should first prove something is a problem before attempting to outlaw it.


I couldn't find a link to the study. I had a few thoughts on this that weren't addressed:

1) What do they mean by "involving marijuana?" The article jumps straight to THC concentration levels in the blood, but doesn't state that this was what was measured in the (i assume) study they are referencing. "Involving marijuana" could just as easily mean that they found pot or paraphernalia in the car. In previous studies I've read, this was actually the case.

2) Why limit it to just fatal road crashes? Is it because there's no change to nonfatal crashes or perhaps that number went down implying that their assumption of marijuana's influence over driving ability is pronounced and are instead focusing on an outlier to push an agenda?

3) Did the total number of fatalities change significantly? If not, then this is a non-story. Of course there would be more instances "involving marijuana." It's legal now, so there's more people "involved" with marijuana on a day to day basis. This would be no different than saying that the rate of fatal crashes "involving" Tesla automobiles has increased since they were introduced to the market.

All of this may be addressed in the study and this is just a terrible story, but I can't tell from the article.


I'm on vacation in Colorado right now, and you can point out the stoned drivers. They tend to drive slow and passive, they fear the merge, and spend lots of time stopped at stop signs making sure they really are stopped and not going to crash. The impression I have is that their judgement and reactions are definitely impaired, but in a stark contrast to the invincibility and carelessness of alcohol induced drivers.


As someone who lives in Colorado, you'd be surprised how many of those people are just "Colorado drivers". I keep asking my mother in law "why are you doing 15 under; you're not even high?" "Oh, it's just so pretty, I wouldn't want to pass everything so quickly". >_<

We also call this "meditating while driving" and "'This isn't my bike!? How do I drive something with 4 wheels?'"


The old joke back in high school: Drunk drivers ignore red lights, stoned drivers wait for the stop sign to turn green.


You noticed this just on vacation eh?

As a CO resident, maybe you just haven't noticed how shitty our drivers are ;)


> As a CO resident, maybe you just haven't noticed how shitty our drivers are ;)

I've lived in many places, including Colorado, and let me tell you – drivers are shitty everywhere :)


It's purely anecdotal, but I point them out to my sister who has lived here for several years, and she confirms "Yes - definitely stoned."


The drivers stopped at the stop sign for significant periods of time are actually waiting for the stop sign to turn green.


How do you verify your assumptions?


That chart has sections for both "Any Legal Drug" and "Any Illegal Drug", and both bars are barely visible. Are they claiming that all drugs, legal or not, don't affect driving?? Because that would be an incredibly stupid claim.


Are there any ways to directly measure impairment rather than using chemical trace detection as a proxy for the affect?

Maybe a driver could take a short impairment test on their cellphone or in car computer prior to starting their drive -- if they pass the test then they would have an argument against impairement should they become subsequently involved in an accident... If they fail the test and drive anyway then there's an even stronger argument that they made an irresponsible decision for which they must take responsibility.


I was watching a documentary the other day about life in a Delhi prison and I was thinking to myself if there's the slightest possibility for me to ever end up in prison for one reason or another, considering of course that I don't have the slightest intention of committing a felony. Then I realized that a driving mistake has the best odds of causing such a thing. It's crazy how many don't take such a high-responsibility task seriously, texting, drinking, smoking while driving.


It's studies like this that have caused people in my city to support legally driving while high. I've seen so many people that somehow think there is no effect on driving skills.

I'm all for legalization, but I will not support the potential of endangering other people.


The title seems misleading. People with marijuana in their bloodstream != stoned drivers. Marijuana use is detectable for a long time past the point of impairment and the data only reflects that they HAVE used marijuana vs being stoned at the point of driving.

Maybe instead of breathalysers and drug detection kits we should have standardised attention/reaction tests to determine if someone is safe to drive (you could probably even run them on a tablet). This would also weed out (pun intended) tired drivers.


This is from February of 2015. Nothing about this data is new anymore.


> Stoned drivers are less dangerous than drunk ones


KIRO TV in Seattle did a small test of impairment on a closed course with participants using varying amounts of marijuana a few years ago around the time Washington voters were choosing to legalize pot and found similar results:

http://www.kiro7.com/news/stoned-drivers-hit-test-course/139...


The only valid comparison is with a driver that is sober.


I wonder if, as public perception changes on the issue, stoned drivers will be in even less accidents as their own perception changes - i.e. "I'm high on cannabis, but that doesn't impair driving, so my own driving isn't impaired", and thus they drive better. Compared to before, "I'm high, high drivers are bad drivers, so my own driving is impaired".


I can't imagine that's how cognition and an activity like driving interact. It's not like negative reinforcement in a social setting (getting demoted at work and as a result getting discouraged and becoming a worse performer, for example) - most people realize driving is an inherently dangerous activity, and most people don't want to die (even if they're doing moderately risky things like driving stoned), so they're not going to have an emotional reaction like "Welp! Guess I'm just fated to drive like shit since I'm stoned right now, hope I make it home, but first lets do some donuts." No, they're going to overcompensate and drive more safely.

If anything, I'd be concerned the opposite effect would occur - data suggesting that driving stoned is safe will cause stoned drivers to lower their guard and not compensate for their impairment as much, and thus raise stoned driving accident rates.


"Safer than drunk" is a poor choice or words, irresponsible even.

If you drive within an hour or two or three of smoking sticky buds, the risk is not reflexes or reaction time, it's getting distracted by your own thoughts, or zoning out. That can easily translate into driving through a red light. The mind wanders when stoned, which is the opposite of what you want when operating machinery.


I'm a bit curious if the "any illegal drug" column includes LSD or hallucinogens. Part of me thinks most people have the common sense not to drive while on such a substance, part of me thinks there would be no way to gather data


I think a lot of people could have told them that. Including, most likely, some of the researchers themselves as well as a few presidents, especially our current one, and most Kennedys.


Was federal data really needed to determine stoned drivers are safer than drunk ones? I thought it would be known that drunk driving is more dangerous than stoned driving.


Carl Sagan had some things to say about this topic.

http://marijuana-uses.com/mr-x/


"Neighbor beats his wife less often than other neighbor, new federal data shows"


Maybe they get in fewer accidents because they are driving like 8 miles per hour.


Confirming what everyone already knew.

Also... Driving impaired in anyway is a big mistake.


Both should only be allowed to drive self-driving cars.


They must be smoking good stuff when they decided to publish this article :D


On the other hand, studies have shown that red wine is good for the heart and chocolate as well. So the best of all worlds is to get stoned, drink a lot of red wine and then drive while eating chocolate. Why is there no study yet showing that?


[flagged]


Please don't be personally abusive, even when a comment is annoying.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11706682 and marked it off-topic.


Sorry. It was intended as a bad pun.


Is riding a horse that's high safer than driving while high?


David Nutt would be the man to find out: http://www.encod.org/info/EQUASY-A-HARMFUL-ADDICTION.html


But what about their propensity to drive really slow?


>But what about their propensity to drive really slow?

You mean like a bicycle, moped, a new parent driving extra slow, an elderly driver, or any other street legal slow vehicle does?

I understand that drivers assume the speed LIMIT is a speed suggestion, and experience road rage when driving under the limit, but there is nothing -- nothing -- illegal or unsafe about staying under the speed limit.

If there is something unsafe about it, there should be a minimum posted speed (many places have this).


I've seen the result of a driver unexpectedly doing just over 35mph on a moderately busy 70mph motorway. Not nice. I don't even think 35mph is that much slower really - trucks are at 56mph and they get along fine but 35ish resulted in all sorts of crazy last minute swerves.

It's generally wise not to do anything other drivers will find surprising and I guess 35mph on a motorway falls in that category.


Around here, roads that have a maximum speed that fast generally have a minimum speed in the 45MPH range too.


It's definitely unsafe if you're traveling much under the speed limit on a major highway.

Most important thing when driving is to be predictable. It's predictable to be traveling plus or minus 10 mph from what is posted.

It isn't predicted to be traveling 30mph+ below the speed limit.

(no comment on being high, just saying, it's super dangerous to be doing 30-40 on a 65mph road).


At least in the US you can get a ticket for going under the speed limit if it is deemed to be impeding traffic even if there is no posted minimum limit. Especially if it is a multi-lane road and you are not in the rightmost lane.


>At least in the US you can get a ticket

As a US citizen I will tell you this is false. We have basically no national traffic laws.

Your local state, city or other local government may have passed a law like this.

For example, in my area, it was made illegal to stay in the left lane moving more slowly than those behind you -- you must yield to the right if they want to go more quickly.

But some 99% of Americans do not live under this local law I'm discussing.


There are some highways that have a "minimum speed limit" sign posted. Not often, but they do exist, and you can get a ticket on those highways.

Also, a Google Self-driving car got pulled over the other day for simply going the speed limit, it did not get a ticket but I thought I would mention it.


You're right, it's not national. But as far as I'm aware, all states have general rules against impeding traffic. Many don't have explicit laws against moving too slow in the left lane, but the general law can and will be used against you for egregious violations.


Texas has a rule that you may not impede traffic by going below the limit.

http://codes.findlaw.com/tx/transportation-code/transp-sect-...


>except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law - See more at: http://codes.findlaw.com/tx/transportation-code/transp-sect-...

Trivial to argue that reduced speed is required for safe operation in this case, the research in this very article may be useful in that defense


Slowing down is the single most effective thing to reduce traffic accidents and injury. Not good for efficiency or smooth flow, sure. But can't claim its not safer.


> Slowing down is the single most effective thing to reduce traffic accidents and injury. Not good for efficiency or smooth flow, sure. But can't claim its not safer.

Go to any motorcycle riding school and all their instructors will teach you that riding slower than the traffic around you is more dangerous than maintaining the average traffic speed, even when above the legal speed limit.


Slowing down is not safer because it significantly reduces the number of traffic accidents.

Slowing down is safer because it significantly reduces the severity of the traffic accidents that do happen.


Both; as shown by the statistics (I posted below).


Its a matter of degree; of course stopping on the freeway is not a good idea. Here's a stat:

Samuel C. Tignor and Davey Warren. "Driver Speed Behavior on U.S. Streets and Highways." Institute of Transportation Engineers: 1990 Compendium of Technical Papers, 1990 August, p. 85. "The accident involvement rates on streets and highways in urban areas was highest for the slowest 5 percent of traffic, lowest for traffic in the 30 to 95 percentile range and increased for the fastest 5 percent of traffic."


Not if you're the only one going slow.


Sure, I can make that claim. People driving slow, as you state, aren't good for smooth flow. Have you ever been driving at night at the speed limit and suddenly come upon someone going 15mph under? It's really dangerous.


True, but pot isn't making people do that. It's even more dangerous if people completely stop completely, or reverse, at night, on a curved stretch of highway with a 75mph speed limit, but pot isn't making people do that either.

I don't even think that pot makes people drive slowly. IMO it's a result of stoned people being afraid of giving the police any excuse to pull them over.


Given the first paragraph of the article, that doesn't seem to make any difference.


Yeah, I would argue that stoned drivers make everyone else a less safe driver.

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