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posted by n1 on Wednesday September 03 2014, @10:46PM   Printer-friendly
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: 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.

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  • (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) <reversethis-{moc ... {8691tsaebssab}> 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....!