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    Marjuana Led To Sharp Rise In Drugged Driving Fatalities
    By News Staff | January 30th 2014 11:23 AM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Marijuana use has been involved in a sharp increase in fatal motor vehicle crashes, with rates nearly tripling since 1999. 

    The prevalence of non-alcohol drugs detected in fatally injured drivers in the U.S. has been steadily rising and tripled from 1999 to 2010. Marijuana is the most commonly detected non-alcohol drug involved. 

    Toxicological testing data from six U.S. states that routinely performed toxicological testing on drivers involved in fatal car crashes (California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and West Virginia) for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System shows that of 23,591 drivers who died within one hour of a crash, 39.7% tested positive for alcohol, which has remained steady.

    Other drugs were involved 24.8% of the time with marijuana showing sharp increases, from 4.2% to 12.2, which corresponds with increased usage of "medical" marijuana.

    The results showed that alcohol involvement was more prevalent in men (43.6%) than in women (26.1%), but trends were stable for both sexes. In contrast, the substantial increase in the prevalence of marijuana was reported for all age groups and both sexes.

    "Although earlier research showed that drug use is associated with impaired driving performance and increased crash risk, trends in narcotic involvement in driver fatalities have been understudied," said Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, professor of Epidemiology and Anesthesiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "Given the increasing availability of marijuana and the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic, understanding the role of controlled substances in motor vehicle crashes is of significant public health importance."

    Joanne Brady, a Ph.D. candidate in epidemiology and the lead author of the study, notes that research from 2007 to 2013 shows an increase in drivers testing positive for marijuana in roadside surveys, as well as drivers involved in fatal crashes in in California and increased use by patients treated in Colorado health care settings. "The marked increase in its prevalence as reported in the present study is likely germane to the growing decriminalization of marijuana," noted Ms. Brady. Over the last 17 years, 20 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted legislation, and four more states have legislation pending, to decriminalize marijuana for medical use. "Although each of these states has laws that prohibit driving under the influence of marijuana, it is still conceivable that its decriminalization may result in increases in crashes involving marijuana."

    While the study provides evidence that non-alcohol drugs in fatally injured drivers has increased significantly, the authors also note there are some limitations to consider. First, the study is based on data from only six states where this information is captured; secondly, the effects of drugs on driving performance and crash risk vary by drug type, dosage, and the driver's physiological response and tolerance level. Also, it is possible for a driver to test positive for marijuana in the blood up to one week after use.

    Therefore, according to Dr. Li, "it is important to interpret the prevalence of non-alcohol drugs reported in this study as an indicator of drug use but not necessarily as a measurement of drug impairment. To control the ongoing epidemic of drugged driving, it is imperative to strengthen and expand drug testing and intervention programs for drivers."




    Comments

    Studies Show Marijuana Consumption Not Associated With Dangerous Driving, May Lead to Safer Drivers
    Anyone who consumes cannabis on a regular basis knows that it doesn’t make you a dangerous driver. Many people find that it makes them a safer, more focused driver; one that’s more aware of their surroundings and the dangers associated with controlling tons of gasoline-filled metal. Not only has this been an anecdotal truth for as long as cars and cannabis have been paired, science has also been clear that consuming marijuana doesn’t make you a dangerous driver, and may make some people safer drivers. More research is needed, but it’s hard to deny that of the research we have, marijuana hasn’t been found to increase a person’s risk of an accident. To back this claim up, here’s a list of studies and research conducted on this very topic, some of which were funded by national governments in hopes of different results.
    http://thejointblog.com/studies-shows-marijuana-consumption-not-associat...

    Marijuana and Driving: A Review of the Scientific Evidence
    "Marijuana has a measurable yet relatively mild effect on psychomotor skills, yet it does not appear to play a significant role in vehicle crashes, particularly when compared to alcohol. Below is a summary of some of the existing data."
    http://norml.org/library/item/marijuana-and-driving-a-review-of-the-scie...

    The incidence and role of drugs in fatally injured drivers
    "There was no indication that cannabis by itself was a cause of fatal crashes.”
    REFERENCE: Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
    Report No. DOT HS 808 065, K. Terhune. 1992.
    http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/26000/26600/26685/DOT_HS_808_065.pdf

    Marijuana and actual driving performance
    “Drivers under the influence of marijuana retain insight in their performance and will compensate when they can, for example, by slowing down or increasing effort. As a consequence, THC’s adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small.”
    REFERENCE: U.S. Department of Transportation study, 1993
    http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Misc/driving/s1p2.htm

    Marijuana’s effects on actual driving performance
    “Evidence from the present and previous studies strongly suggests that alcohol encourages risky driving whereas THC encourages greater caution”
    REFERENCE: University of Adelaide study, 1995
    www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Misc/driving/s1p2.htm

    Role of cannabis in motor vehicle crashes
    "There is no evidence that consumption of cannabis alone increases the risk of culpability for traffic crash fatalities or injuries for which hospitalization occurs, and may reduce those risks.. The more cautious behavior of subjects who have received marijuana decreases the impact of the drug on performance, whereas the opposite holds true for alcohol.”
    REFERENCE: Marijuana: On-Road and Driving-Simulator Studies; Epidemiologic Reviews 21: 222-232, A. Smiley. 1999.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10682259

    "Both simulation and road trials generally find that driving behaviour shortly after consumption of larger doses of cannabis results in (i) a more cautious driving style; (ii) increased variability in lane position (and headway); and (iii) longer decision times. Whereas these results indicate a 'change' from normal conditions, they do not necessarily reflect 'impairment' in terms of performance effectiveness since few studies report increased accident risk."
    REFERENCE: UK Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (Road Safety Division). 2000.
    http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/
    /http:/www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/research/rsrr/theme3/cannabisanddrivingareviewoft4764?page=12

    Cannabis And Cannabinoids - Pharmacology, Toxicology And Therapy
    “At the present time, the evidence to suggest an involvement of cannabis in road crashes is scientifically unproven”.
    REFERENCE: G. Chesher and M. Longo. 2002.
    https://www.dmt-nexus.me/Files/Books/General/Cannabis%20And%20Cannabinoi...

    Cannabis: Our position for a Canadian Public Policy
    “Cannabis alone, particularly in low doses, has little effect on the skills involved in automobile driving. Cannabis leads to a more cautious style of driving. However it has a negative impact on decision time and trajectory. This in itself does not mean that drivers under the influence of cannabis represent a traffic safety risk”
    REFERENCE: Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs. 2002.
    http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/sen/committee/371/ille/rep/summary-e.htm

    “The evidence to suggest an involvement of cannabis in road crashes is scientifically unproven.”
    REFERENCE: Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential, 2002
    Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential, edited by Franjo Grotenhermen, MD and Ethan Russo, MD (Haworth Press 2002).
    https://www.dmt-nexus.me/Files/Books/General/Cannabis%20And%20Cannabinoi...

    The Prevalence of Drug Use in Drivers, and Characteristics of the Drug-Positive Group
    "There was a clear relationship between alcohol and culpability. In contrast, there was no significant increase in culpability for cannabinoids alone."
    REFERENCE: Accident Analysis and Prevention 32(5): 613-622. Longo, MC; Hunter, CE; Lokan, RJ; White, JM; and White, MA. (2000a).
    http://www.grotenhermen.com/driving/longo1.pdf

    The Effect Of Cannabis Compared With Alcohol On Driving
    “Although cognitive studies suggest that cannabis use may lead to unsafe driving, experimental studies have suggested that it can have the opposite effect.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2009
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722956/

    The Effect Of Cannabis Compared With Alcohol On Driving
    “Although cognitive studies suggest that cannabis use may lead to unsafe driving, experimental studies have suggested that it can have the opposite effect.”
    REFERENCE: U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2009
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722956/

    Why Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Traffic Deaths
    “No differences were found during the baseline driving segment (and the) collision avoidance scenarios,”
    REFERENCE: Research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2010
    http://healthland.time.com/2011/12/02/why-medical-marijuana-laws-reduce-...

    Top 10 Reasons Marijuana Users Are Safer Drivers
    “20 years of study has concluded that marijuana smokers may actually have fewer accidents than other drivers.”
    http://www.4autoinsurancequote.com/uncategorized/reasons-why-marijuana-u...

    Risk of severe driver injury by driving with psychoactive substances
    "The study found that those with a blood alcohol level of 0.12% were over 30 times more likely to get into a serious accident than someone who’s consumed any amount of cannabis. .. The least risky drug seemed to be cannabis and benzodiazepines and Z-drugs."
    REFERENCE: Accident Analysis & Prevention; Volume 59, October 2013, Pages 346–356
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001457513002315

    Cannabis: Summary Report
    “Cannabis alone, particularly in low doses, has little effect on the skills involved in automobile driving.”
    REFERENCE: Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
    https://www.dmt-nexus.me/Files/Books/General/Cannabis And Cannabinoids - Pharmacology,Toxicology And Therapy.pdf

    Acute cannabis consumption and motor vehicle collision risk
    "There is no evidence that consumption of cannabis alone increases the risk of culpability for traffic crash fatalities or injuries for which hospitalization occurs, and may reduce those risks."
    REFERENCE: British Medical Journal, 1999; M. Bates and T. Blakely

    Hank
    The only legitimate links in your swath of them said 'driving while impaired is bad' - well, no kidding.  None of them disputed that marijuana fatalities have gone up, except for the crackpot advocacy sites that also claim it is somehow 'medical'.

    There is probably something to the 'many marijuana smokers are paranoid so they drive really slow and carefully' thing, though. And no one drives fast in the drive-thru of the JackInTheBox.
    There's no conclusion to be drawn from these stats. In general, you should never trust statistics when they are backed by an agenda. Tox results alone cannot indicate impairment. Tox results for marijuana simply show that the subject has used marijuana in the past week. 5.5% of American adults use marijuana weekly. Multiplying .945*.945 = ~.897. So if fatal collisions happened between totally random drivers, you should expect about 10.7 of the crashes to have at least one driver testing positive for marijuana. 10.7 is awfully close to 11.1, or one in nine.

    I'm not saying driving while high is safe (it's totally not). I'm just saying that the conclusion drawn from this study is meaningless.

    (I work for the institute for traffic safety)

    The article is simply a strawman argument. Regardless of the decriminalization status of marijuana, it was NEVER approved for use while driving.

    To use these statistics while still maintaining a tolerant state towards drunk drivers is decidedly unscientific.

    More importantly, how many drivers tested positive for any drug [especially prescription] that also carried a prohibition against driving? This study is a waste, because it is simply advancing an agenda to make marijuana legalization look bad. Argue on the merits, but don't use arguments about marijuana that still wouldn't be legal even if decriminalized.

    Hank
    it was NEVER approved for use while driving.
    Oh, you mean if things are used outside guidelines the product is exculpatory? Let's get DDT sprayed on crops again, then.