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posted by n1 on Wednesday September 03 2014, @10:46PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the ridin'-dirty dept.

As states liberalize their marijuana laws, public officials and safety advocates worry that more drivers using the drug will lead to a big increase in traffic deaths. Now The Guardian reports that it appears that unlike alcohol, drivers using marijuana tend to be aware that they are impaired and try to compensate by driving slowly, avoiding risky actions such as passing other cars, and allowing extra room between vehicles. In Washington State, there was a jump of nearly 25% in drivers testing positive for marijuana in 2013 – the first full year after legalization – but no corresponding increase in car accidents or fatalities. When adjusted for alcohol and driver demographics, a study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation found that otherwise sober drivers who tested positive for marijuana were slightly less likely to have been involved in a crash (PDF) than drivers who tested negative for all drugs. “We were expecting a huge impact,” says Eduardo Romano, lead author of the study, “and when we looked at the data from crashes we’re not seeing that much.”

But another recent study that used similar data to assess crash risk came to an opposite conclusion. When Columbia University researchers compared drivers who tested positive for marijuana in a roadside survey with state drug and alcohol tests of drivers killed in crashes, they found that marijuana alone increased the likelihood of being involved in a fatal crash by 80% (PDF). But because the study included states where not all drivers are tested for alcohol and drugs, a majority of drivers in fatal crashes were excluded, possibly skewing the results. Also, the use of urine tests rather than blood tests in some cases may overestimate marijuana use and impairment. “We see the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington as a wake-up call for all of us in highway safety,” says Jonathan Adkins. "We don’t know enough about the scope of marijuana-impaired driving to call it a big or small problem.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03 2014, @10:48PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03 2014, @10:48PM (#89117)

    Getting high (I didn't inhale) makes everything go in slow motion.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03 2014, @10:54PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03 2014, @10:54PM (#89118)

    Prohibition was great for the economy! Ban alcohol again! That'll get us out of the Great Recession, folks! Alcohol is prohibited in those Arab countries, and just look at how prosperous they are!

  • (Score: 2) by arslan on Wednesday September 03 2014, @10:54PM

    by arslan (3462) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @10:54PM (#89119)

    I would think anything that can slow your reaction time is compromising your driving ability to an extent. This includes staring at chicks in mini-skirt on the side walk....

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03 2014, @10:59PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03 2014, @10:59PM (#89122)

      staring at chicks in mini-skirt

      Women are now prohibited from existing. For A GAY UNIVERSE, nigga.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Ethanol-fueled on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:11PM

      by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:11PM (#89125) Homepage

      Driving while high on Marijuana doesn't turn all drives into oblivious idiots, in fact the slight paranoia and sensitivity can actually make one a better driver -- going the speed limit where safe, signalling after every turn, staying out of others' way and driving defensively on the highway when going faster than the speed limit is safe, anticipating any approaching traffic and looking where every noise is coming from, and generally following the traffic rules by the book so as to avoid being pulled over or causing problems.

      Now cue all the smart-ass comments about good drivers being targets for cops because bad driving is the norm.

      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Hairyfeet on Thursday September 04 2014, @12:17AM

        by Hairyfeet (75) <{bassbeast1968} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday September 04 2014, @12:17AM (#89140) Journal

        I had a buddy that was a county mountie for years and he would just make 'em park the car and take the potsmokers home as long as all they had on 'em was personal because "I don't have to deal with guts and blood and dead bodies with the potheads, all they do is drive slow". He said the drunks were just the opposite, they would be flying low so when they had a wreck it was always a bloody horrible mess, all mangled metal and bodies. He said the only thing more messy than a drunk driving wreck were the "organ donor" crotch rockets that would decide they would Mr badazz and could outrun the cops, never failed they would be looking back to see where the cop was and run right into somebody or something and SPLAT, little bits of flesh all over the place.

        So I'd be more than happy to have pot legal everywhere even though I only take a drag MAYBE once a year (when I have one of my really bad migraine headaches the stoner down the hall will usually take pity and throw me a joint, it really seems to help a 'behind the eye light sensitive' skullsplitter) because the worse they are gonna do is drive slow and buy up all the chocolate donuts at the gas station.

        --
        ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
        • (Score: 5, Funny) by fadrian on Thursday September 04 2014, @01:00AM

          by fadrian (3194) on Thursday September 04 2014, @01:00AM (#89152) Homepage

          ... and buy up all the chocolate donuts at the gas station.

          And that's why many law enforcement officials want to keep it illegal!

          --
          That is all.
          • (Score: 2) by velex on Thursday September 04 2014, @02:13AM

            by velex (2068) on Thursday September 04 2014, @02:13AM (#89165) Journal

            Ah, for mod points! Have an honorary +1 Funny.

      • (Score: 2) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Thursday September 04 2014, @08:22AM

        by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Thursday September 04 2014, @08:22AM (#89246) Journal

        > signalling after every turn,

        Signalling *before* turning would probably be safer...

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @03:12PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @03:12PM (#89369)

          Not if all your turns are, safer, right turns.

    • (Score: 2) by SlimmPickens on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:20PM

      by SlimmPickens (1056) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:20PM (#89129)

      I bought my first (brand new) motorbike in December. I put on 16000 Km totally stoned until I gave up weed a couple of months ago.

      All three times I nearly crashed were because I was looking at a girl.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by silverly on Wednesday September 03 2014, @10:55PM

    by silverly (4052) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @10:55PM (#89120) Homepage

    Instead of driving, give the people a super good public transport system. There should always be good cheap alternative to DUI. Taxis are basically a scam and there is only so many times you can ask your SO/Friends etc to get a lift home. Gives you a reason to avoid driving the tin death trap ourselves.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @02:21AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @02:21AM (#89170)
      saying 'public transport' in the usa shows you're either not in the usa. or are in one of a very few big cities.

      because it does not work in 99% of the country at all.
      • (Score: 1) by silverly on Thursday September 04 2014, @02:51AM

        by silverly (4052) on Thursday September 04 2014, @02:51AM (#89181) Homepage

        Yep, i'm not in US.

        I have recently visited and i was a bit disappointed the lack options of transport (I was in orlando). Its near impossible to get around without a car. Its strange for me since I use heaps of public transport in my city and its pretty easy to get from place to place. As much as decentralisation is good but not having the option to jump on a bus or a train is a PITA (at least for a traveller).

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @09:01AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @09:01AM (#89257)

      Self driving cars would be a better solution. Only when they are so good that you don't have to have a steering wheel that is....

      You could smoke and drink while going places, what could be better..

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:02PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:02PM (#89123)

    I'm 100% sure that there are no other variables that would cause marijuana users to be more likely involved in a crash.
    Marijuana use would never correlate with any other factors that are associated with car crashes, right Columbia researchers?

  • (Score: 2) by Geotti on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:18PM

    by Geotti (1146) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:18PM (#89128) Journal

    Why drink and drive? Smoke and fly!

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by gman003 on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:23PM

    by gman003 (4155) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:23PM (#89131)

    Honestly, the problem is that laws against impaired driving are based on specific levels of specific substances, not on anything that directly relates to your ability to drive. If you could have a BAC of 0.30 and still drive with full perception, near-zero reaction times and perfect coordination, go ahead. Obviously nobody would be able to do that - that was hyperbole. But you see my point - it's not "driving with alcohol in your system" that's the problem, it's "driving while not being able to drive safely" that's the problem.

    If we switched back to sobriety tests instead of strictly-defined chemistry, we quite simply solve all the problems with legalized drugs. You don't have to define limits and have testing devices for every possible drug, you don't have to deal with how to define combinations of them, and you don't need to subject drivers to a long battery of tests while you try to figure out which chemical is making them weave across lanes. You just figure out if they're not sober enough to drive. It even knocks out also-dangerous but currently-legal things like driving while sleep-deprived.

    • (Score: 2) by SlimmPickens on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:29PM

      by SlimmPickens (1056) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:29PM (#89134)

      I agree. They should carry a little device that's vaguely similar to Test Of Variables of Attention [wikipedia.org] used for testing ADHD.

      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Thursday September 04 2014, @05:02AM

        by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Thursday September 04 2014, @05:02AM (#89209) Journal
        Isn't Voight-Kampff better?
        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
        • (Score: 2) by SlimmPickens on Thursday September 04 2014, @05:19AM

          by SlimmPickens (1056) on Thursday September 04 2014, @05:19AM (#89214)

          Probably, that's just the one I knew about.

    • (Score: 2, Offtopic) by SlimmPickens on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:33PM

      by SlimmPickens (1056) on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:33PM (#89135)

      Also, here's the best sobriety test [youtube.com] I've ever seen.

      • (Score: 2, Offtopic) by Geotti on Thursday September 04 2014, @01:56AM

        by Geotti (1146) on Thursday September 04 2014, @01:56AM (#89160) Journal

        That was pretty funny, here's another one [youtube.com].

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Hairyfeet on Thursday September 04 2014, @12:34AM

      by Hairyfeet (75) <{bassbeast1968} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday September 04 2014, @12:34AM (#89143) Journal

      Problem with the "drunk tests" is that they are bullshit. My buddy ray when he was a county mountie used to always rail on those tests and say cops should simply be taught to use better discretion as those "tests" require nearly perfect balance and eye hand coordination and most folks? Don't have those. He gave those tests to a room of 30 years olds that were straight as a board, result? nearly 40% could not pass the test! When he told me that I asked him to give me the test, result? I flunked and I was stone cold sober, but as he pointed out anybody with old back injuries (like me) or hip injuries will flunk, anybody with old neck injuries will flunk, anybody with inner ear problems will flunk, there are just too many things that will throw you off just enough to flunk those things.

      What I want to know is how in the hell are they testing in the places pot is legal? after all pot shows up in piss tests for 30 days after a person smokes any so that is out, they driving everybody they suspect to the hospital for blood tests? If so i bet a lot of the cop's time is gonna be shuttling folks to the hospital.

      --
      ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @10:09AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @10:09AM (#89272)

        "ACs are never seen so don't bother. I never surf below +2 just for you."

        First of all, thank you for your empathy and informing me about your surfing habits. I hope you have a wonderful time not reading my AC response.

        OT, in Germany, they test drivers with a swab. You have to put a stick in your mouth that tests your saliva for THC and other drugs (MDMA, Cocaine, Amphetamines and others). This is better than a urine test because when testing positive it indicates that you recently (24-48 hours) used those substances. Instead of urine, which is usually tested for metabolites and can indicate use over much longer periods as you correctly stated.

      • (Score: 0, Troll) by PReDiToR on Thursday September 04 2014, @11:07AM

        by PReDiToR (3834) on Thursday September 04 2014, @11:07AM (#89286) Homepage
        AC replied to you:

        "ACs are never seen so don't bother. I never surf below +2 just for you."

        First of all, thank you for your empathy and informing me about your surfing habits. I hope you have a wonderful time not reading my AC response.

        OT, in Germany, they test drivers with a swab. You have to put a stick in your mouth that tests your saliva for THC and other drugs (MDMA, Cocaine, Amphetamines and others). This is better than a urine test because when testing positive it indicates that you recently (24-48 hours) used those substances. Instead of urine, which is usually tested for metabolites and can indicate use over much longer periods as you correctly stated.

        I'm so DAMNED helpful, eh?

        --

        Do not meddle in the affairs of geeks for they are subtle and quick to anger.
        • (Score: 1) by Heathen on Thursday September 04 2014, @12:26PM

          by Heathen (965) on Thursday September 04 2014, @12:26PM (#89316)

          AC replied to you:

          "ACs are never seen so don't bother. I never surf below +2 just for you."

          First of all, thank you for your empathy and informing me about your surfing habits. I hope you have a wonderful time not reading my AC response.

          OT, in Germany, they test drivers with a swab. You have to put a stick in your mouth that tests your saliva for THC and other drugs (MDMA, Cocaine, Amphetamines and others). This is better than a urine test because when testing positive it indicates that you recently (24-48 hours) used those substances. Instead of urine, which is usually tested for metabolites and can indicate use over much longer periods as you correctly stated.

          I'm so DAMNED helpful, eh?

          You're going to have to get your score above +2 first.

          • (Score: 1) by PReDiToR on Friday September 05 2014, @04:33AM

            by PReDiToR (3834) on Friday September 05 2014, @04:33AM (#89694) Homepage
            Yeah. The part at the bottom about the swabs was actually interesting but I got a Troll mod for reposting.

            Such is the way of things, eh?
            --

            Do not meddle in the affairs of geeks for they are subtle and quick to anger.
    • (Score: 1, Flamebait) by velex on Thursday September 04 2014, @02:33AM

      by velex (2068) on Thursday September 04 2014, @02:33AM (#89178) Journal

      I agree with this. I'm admitting to being a drunk driver. Fine, flame me.

      I swear, though, these four-wheel drivers—egh, they're hopeless. I've never been pulled over because I never do anything stupid. I know my speed by what gear I'm in and what my engine sounds like. Even while wasted I can apply the Smith System (mostly, always leave yourself an out, and make sure they see you) better than most 4 wheel drivers can hope to while completely sober (and yakking on their cell phones). (Clarification: this is in my tiny little Fiesta. I'd probably end up creamed if I made a mistake^H^H^H^H^Hhad a collision (there are no accidents, only collisions) with one of these giant SUVs. Also, I'd never consider driving with a drop of alcohol in my blood if I ever were needed to haul 45,000 lbs of soda pop down the big road again.)

      Sure, perhaps, I'm experiencing the judgement-impairing effects of alcohol. It's funny, I'll drive my damned car to get more damned alcohol when I'm pissed, but I refuse to play Gran Turismo after my 2nd b33r because I know that my lap times decrease exponentially (well, ok, technically 1/x function) after that. It's Ballmer Peak where I have a brilliant lap, get in 1st, then it's downhill from there.

      That being said… given the times I have been high, I've always been afraid of taking to the wheel. The effects of cannabis are completely different from alcohol. I think it's important to research the safety profile, but I think in the end it's folly to apply the same enforcement methods to both drugs. They're totally different. Let objective science prevail, and let puritanism die in a fire.

    • (Score: 2) by mojo chan on Thursday September 04 2014, @07:28AM

      by mojo chan (266) on Thursday September 04 2014, @07:28AM (#89230)

      While true, the issue is that you need some kind of testable limit in order to enforce the law effectively. Otherwise it's just too subjective and too difficult to prove to be useful. Therefore you set the limit at the lower end of what the population can tolerate before being dangerously impaired.

      --
      const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
    • (Score: 2) by opinionated_science on Thursday September 04 2014, @12:13PM

      by opinionated_science (4031) on Thursday September 04 2014, @12:13PM (#89308)

      Yes that is logical and will never happen. The reason why bloody chemistry (and breathalysers) have become the standard is that they can be objectively tested. Hence, they can be objectively administered. It is to the benefit of us *all* that all drivers are competent, and yet we *know* they cannot be!

      Until an effective method of testing "stonedness" is developed , there will always be this tension.

      Perhaps robot cars will save us after all....!

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:29PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 03 2014, @11:29PM (#89133)

    What I'm hoping to see are people starting to substitute pot for booze leading to a reduced accident rate because, for a similar level of intoxication, pot does not impair driving ability as much as alcohol.

    I don't know if that is true, but I sure want it to be true because (a) saving lives is always good and (b) fuck the drug warriors.

    • (Score: 2) by tathra on Thursday September 04 2014, @12:30AM

      by tathra (3367) on Thursday September 04 2014, @12:30AM (#89142)

      except weed is not a substitute for alcohol. they both have vastly different effects on different neurological systems. i dont know anyone that gets more sociable on weed, for example (and even if you do, it doesnt reliably produce that effect in everyone). GHB is about the only thing that might make a good substitute for booze.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @12:49AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @12:49AM (#89150)

        Sure, not everyone is going to substitute pot for alcohol.
        That would be a really stupid thing to expect.
        Just like it would be really stupid to think that everybody drinks alcohol for the same reason.

      • (Score: 2) by Geotti on Thursday September 04 2014, @01:49AM

        by Geotti (1146) on Thursday September 04 2014, @01:49AM (#89159) Journal

        GHB is about the only thing that might make a good substitute for booze.

        You mean in the sense that it makes girls spread their legs?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @07:26AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @07:26AM (#89228)

          In my experience pot is great for that.
          This one girl I knew was a tiger when she was high.
          Best of fuck of my life.

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Thursday September 04 2014, @05:09AM

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Thursday September 04 2014, @05:09AM (#89212) Journal

      I don't know if that is true, but I sure want it to be true because (a) saving lives is always good and (b) fuck the drug warriors.

      ... and (c) more booze for me.
      Sounds good!

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by PinkyGigglebrain on Thursday September 04 2014, @02:22AM

    by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Thursday September 04 2014, @02:22AM (#89171)

    "compared drivers who tested positive for marijuana in a roadside survey with state drug and alcohol tests of drivers killed in crashes, "

    Number of drivers killed in car crashs who where DUI when they died compared to number of living drivers who tested positive in a road side spot check.

    DUI dead vs random living subjects who also tested positive for cannabis use.

    I gave the "study design" section of the attached report a quick scan, more than a few items raised a some red flags for me. I'll believe it when it gets peer reviewed and published in a major journal. Until then it sounds like this is just more of the tactics used back in 1936 to show why marijuana* had to be controlled.

    .

    * the word "marijuana" was not a part of the US vocabulary before 1936 when the news papers, primarily those run by Hearst, started running articles about a dangerous plant being brought into the US by Mexican immigrants. It was reported to make make Mexicans and Black disrespectful and violent towards whites and would even make a white woman want to have sex with black. The general public was of course shocked about the "devil weed" and supported efforts to control it, while they went right on taking a Hemp tincture (hemp extract in alcohol) that was the most widely prescribed over the counter medicine in the US at the time and considered to be quite safe.

    --
    "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
    • (Score: 2) by velex on Thursday September 04 2014, @02:50AM

      by velex (2068) on Thursday September 04 2014, @02:50AM (#89179) Journal

      * the word "marijuana" was not a part of the US vocabulary before 1936 when the news papers, primarily those run by Hearst, started running articles about a dangerous plant being brought into the US by Mexican immigrants. It was reported to make make Mexicans and Black disrespectful and violent towards whites and would even make a white woman want to have sex with black. The general public was of course shocked about the "devil weed" and supported efforts to control it, while they went right on taking a Hemp tincture (hemp extract in alcohol) that was the most widely prescribed over the counter medicine in the US at the time and considered to be quite safe.

      Yes. This is correct. I'd like a citation on the hemp tincture part, though. I'm not familiar with that aspect, but I wouldn't doubt it. However, it's certain that cannabis prohibition is deeply steeped in 1930s racism, and the red scare gave oomph to the reactionary element in USA culture after the failure of the Vietnam "war" to turn an illegal substance nobody cared about into a full-scale war to incarcerate as many people as possible. Eh, but it's probably preaching to the choir.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @06:35AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 04 2014, @06:35AM (#89218)

        I put Bud and Jack Daniel (pint) together and forgot them (he he, stoner) for two weeks. Bud ran out; then I found Mr Bud Daniel. Drank the Daniel first night. WOW... so nice. Didn't want to rape anybody; kill anybody; love anybody. Just wanted to mello yello. Day later Bud was dry (sober) got rolled by JB. Man I never met a flavor like that. Jack Daniel and Mary Jane married in the glass of a pint bottle.

        It's just sad that I will never experience that again. (By choice; need what little brain cells I have left to keep my heart going.)

        PS: Jack Daniel Family, you need to rethink your sales in WA and CO.

        Signed: Stoner Hippie

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by SacredSalt on Thursday September 04 2014, @04:20AM

    by SacredSalt (2772) on Thursday September 04 2014, @04:20AM (#89202)

    It will come down to what they always find:

    Vehicle fatalities come down to: alcohol, multiple substance, tired driving, inattention, failure to slow down for road conditions, and lastly being unlucky if you are hit.

    I wouldn't expect marijuana legalization to have much impact except on the 2nd category. Generally your folks that party irresponsibly are going to use, and drive on multiple substances or while severely impaired from alcohol alone. I guarantee you there is a limit to which marijuana use impairs a person from driving -- especially early on in the drug career. I also can pretty much guarantee you that limit becomes higher with repeated use. The percentage of people that were driving on multiple substances likely only increased marginally with legalization. The party crowd tended to disregard those laws before they had legalization, and certainly will continue to after.

    The real problem is trying to find a way to set a meaningful limit, and to administer some type of actual impairment testing to take dangerous drivers off the road before they have a fatal accident.