By on June 9, 2010

On the heels of a Ben Gurion University study showing that drivers under the influence of marijuana are less dangerous than drunk drivers, comes yet another study indicating that driving stoned might not be quite as bad as some think. Published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, the Hartford Hospital/University of Iowa study titled “Sex differences in the effects of marijuana on simulated driving performance,” concludes that:

Under the influence of marijuana, participants decreased their speed and failed to show expected practice effects during a distracted drive. No differences were found during the baseline driving segment or collision avoidance scenarios. No differences attributable to sex were observed. This study enhances the current literature by identifying distracted driving and the integration of prior experience as particularly problematic under the influence of marijuana.


Of course, the researchers behind this research don’t want you to get the wrong idea about this illegal substance. One of the study’s authors tells InsideLine:

It does not in any way say that it is safe to drive under the influence of any drug. It merely shows us, we need to study this further. We need to know what marijuana does to the brain. We need to understand the ramifications. To create public policy and to keep people safe, you need to know what’s really happening in the brain.

The National Organization to Reform Marijuana Law (NORML) echoes this sentiment, maintaining that

Although cannabis is said by most experts to be safer with motorists than alcohol and many prescription drugs, responsible cannabis consumers never operate motor vehicles in an impaired condition… the development of cannabis-sensitive technology to rapidly identify the presence of THC in drivers, such as a roadside saliva test, would provide utility to law enforcement in their efforts to better identify intoxicated drivers. The development of such technology would also increase public support for the taxation and regulation of cannabis by helping to assuage concerns that liberalizing marijuana policies could potentially lead to an increase in incidences of drugged driving. Such concerns are a significant impediment to the enactment of marijuana law reform, and must be sufficiently addressed before a majority of the public will embrace any public policy that proposes regulating adult cannabis use like alcohol.

Meanwhile, if you absolutely must drive while baked, make sure you read up on the rules of driving at Maximum Stoned Speed, as submitted by TTAC’s grooviest commentators.

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28 Comments on “Study: Marijuana Worsens Distracted Driving, And That’s About It...”

  • avatar

    Is anyone surprised when researchers say something needs further study? Talk about ensuring job security…

    • 0 avatar

      To be fair, due to its legal prohibition and certain prevailing stigmas (that more or less run rampant despite obvious truths,) one cannot study this substance as readily as most.

      To watch former drug czars spin it, we cannot safely assess it’s safety/efficacy/toxicity because it is illegal.

      Ergo, it is illegal, and we will not assess it.

      Chicken, meet egg. Only replace chicken with ‘a monolithic, byzantine Prison-Industrial-Complex engorging itself on a 40-year diet of: consulting adult lives, trillions of tax dollars, AND the first, fourth, eighth, tenth, thirteenth, & fourteenth ammendments (casually ignoring the need of the 21st ammendment [re: the 18th.])

      Nixon’s War on Drugs is the perfect illustration of the epic failure of the nanny-state culture warriors.

    • 0 avatar

      Eh, that pesky Constitution. Well, a lot of people aren’t paying much attention that that particular document anymore, are they? Some say that our democracy has proven itself to be a failed experiment. I would submit the War On Drugs as partial proof of that statement.

  • avatar

    Between this thread and the Stow and Go one this must be pass the bong Wednesday at TTAC.

  • avatar

    “It merely shows us, we need to study this further.”

    I’ve been saying this since the 1970’s.


    • 0 avatar

      Further study is needed. It requires:

      One gaming computer + good monitor
      GTR or any good sim
      Logitech MOMO wheel or equivalent
      Appropriate quantity of cannsbis and delivery system

      Generally it’s pretty easy to identify the point at which impairment begins. This research did not harm, or risk harm, to anyone else.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    Legalise it!

    The Netherlands have shown us the way forward.

    Mind you, they’ve also shown us hardcore donkey porn, so I don’t know what to think….

  • avatar

    H. sapiens: big brains, don’t know how to use ’em.

    both the researchers, and NORML are protecting themselves from all the ones who have trouble using their brains on this issue.

  • avatar

    So hands up from everyone who thinks the war on drugs is a roaring success! I mean there must be a far lower percentage of users as part of the general population now than 30 years ago right?

    (crickets chirping)

    BTW I’m from the legalize it, tax the heck out of it, and punish anybody who operates cars or heavy equipment under the influence of it like crazy. I mean alcohol is leagal and you can’t show up to work under the influence of it, why should marijuana be any different?

  • avatar

    Posts on this subject should always be made at 04:20.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      Here, here!!! I second!!! But I’m a little late. Must be that lack of motivation.

      Oooh, you were 21 minutes late yourself!! We’ll try again tomorrow. Or maybe not. Whatever.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    If you’re a driver (the Farfurg…Farvegnug…Farvergnugg…to Hell with it! The Volkswagen kind), it enhances the driving experience and actually focuses your attention on the road.

    And it’s illegal. Very unfortunate for us drivers.

  • avatar

    Rarely take a road trip without it…But that’s just me.

    • 0 avatar

      @obbop..You never cease to amaze me.

      When I worked on the line,back in the seventies, there might of been the odd doobie getting passed around. This was in the pre J.I.T delivery days. The American truckers,unwilling to cross the border with pot, would trade us a fifth of JD for a couple of fatties.

      Your right dude, those days are gone, but I still miss e’m.

  • avatar

    Late 1970s, an entirely different era for long-haul trucking.

    A decent percentage of drivers kept boredom at bay via toking, especially when out on the Interstate in the “wide-open” locales such as motorvating across the great plains in Nebraska, Kansas and other areas without dense traffic.

    Police-type folks often held a different general attitude towards the evil weed.

    More than once, while receiving a speeding ticket (it was the era of the “double nickel,” the national 55 mph speed limit) I know I reeked of herbiage with no problem even though I did receive a comical comment at times….. the police-type person could ascertain I had control of my faculties.

    Hey!!!! It WAS a different era back then. More laid back. Plenty of pot sharing in the truck stops. The CB radio used frequently to acquire weed from locals with cops using that route to bust sellers and/or buyers very rarely.

    Nowadays and for quite a spell now the CB ceased being used to conduct pot transactions and due to much different enforcement levels pot has become rather rare among drivers… at least partially due to pee testing from several sources; law enforcement, DOT, firms hiring drivers, etc.

    It would be interesting to compare various statistics from the “old days” with those of today’s near-potless era though a requirement to adjust for today’s MUCH more crowded roadways and expanded cities/suburbs would be needed (the USA population is growing steadily to the detriments of our society, well being at many levels, etc. in my opinion. And it is going to get much worse.

    Just wait until we reach a half-billion, then a full BILLION souls.

    Glad I will be dead and gone.

    Life was better in many ways before the herd grew so large.

    You younguns will never know and I doubt if you can visualize how the elbow room back then offered so much, including more freedom from intrusive government and creeping expanding bureaucracies.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep… pulled over by PA’s finest in the mid-1970’s driving my hippie Dodge van from Boston to Denver. Small bag of herb, Ruger 357 magnum in the trunk (MA pistol permit helped). Officer friendly tossed the herb in the bushes and told us to be on our way. Would not happen in today’s paranoid world.


  • avatar

    “Glad I will be dead and gone.”

    I was contemplating the fact that since my youth I have been increasingly ‘hemmed in’. Regrettably, I will be alive long after it gets worse.

    I remember not 15 years ago driving home from a pub in a small country town and stopping to take a pee on the way home. I was in the middle of some fields with nary a light or car to be seen. If I stopped in the same place today I’d pissing on someone’s lawn.

    I hate it.

  • avatar

    I recently attended Bondurant School of High Performance Driving with some friends. One of my friends tends to get motion sickness, and was ill to the point of vomiting after riding in the back seat of a skid car during understeer/oversteer exercises. He was spending more time in the bathroom than the track that afternoon. OTC medication didn’t help, and the nausea hadn’t gone away by the next morning. He was suffering and not enjoying his expensive course, so as a last resort he got high during the lunch hour. That afternoon, he felt good and drove a 430 hp Z51 Corvette around a race track just as well as anyone else in the class.

    However, he did have a meal and a couple of hours between getting high and driving the track. I do believe that physical skills are affected for the first hour or two after smoking, depending on how high you get. Nothing that would affect something as simple as driving a car on the street at legal speeds – where calm, cautious, contentedness often even makes for a safer driver – but it does add a couple of seconds to Gran Turismo lap times!

  • avatar

    My last 10 years at GM I was a Dock Tech. I did the paper work,while the drivers loaded and unloaded the trucks. A good lift truck man has to be safe, accurate,and very fast.

    The number one best driver I ever had,would average 2 or 3 joints a day…..Go figure.

  • avatar

    Practice makes perfect…

  • avatar

    Said it here before, I’ll say it again. Although the habit came to an end in the mid 80’s, I certainly logged at least 100,000 miles driving baked.
    I also used to never ski without putting on a good strong buzz, and that included such skiing as through tightly spaced trees, high speeds easily upwards of 60mph, on crowded chaotic busy trails, and most particularly bumps, which require extremely fast and continuous perception, judgement, and physical motor reactions and control. Never had any problems. Tried skiing drunk literally once. NO WAY!

  • avatar

    Any research on marijuana/cannabis is a bit screw because the quality that they get from the fed to perform these experiments are questionable.

    Depending on the amount of thc in the strain you might able not to drive at all. THC is a chemical compounds that slow your synapses firing rate down so this would affect your response time. I also have short term memory lapses and couldn’t think correctly with high THC.

    Shrug, just with all other substances there are always chances for abuse. But for cannabis case, it is safer by a wide margin then alcohol. Unless our water supply become dangerous and we have to go back to drinking beer and apple cider >_>.

    This November hopefully California going to pass it. There are only what? 33% of people that is in favor of it according to studies. Not only that but our primary election on June was only ~1.3 million voters? Pathetic.

  • avatar

    I ride a bicycle a lot in a large west-coast city. I’d estimate that the ventilation systems of one-in-twenty to one-in-fifty cars in this city emit marijuana fumes. If this many people are stoned while driving, and if it impaired driving, you’d think this would be obvious in accident statistics. Since it’s not, it raises the possibility that stoned drivers (adjusted for age etc.) are LESS likely to be in accidents than straight drivers.

    It certainly bears objective and fair research. Which of course is impossible in the current anti-drug hysteria.

  • avatar

    Quite a few years ago the California Highway Patrol conducted a study regarding pot smoking and accidents while driving.

    The results of that study made it to a few newspapers (this was before the general public had access to the Web) and was typically greatly condensed as such news stories typically are.

    One conclusion… the CHP could not prove that even one fatality could be blamed upon pot use ALONE though many other factors, especially alcohol use, could be directly blamed for causing a wreck that involved a fatality.

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