Study Finds People Don’t Think They’ll Get Arrested For Driving High

Bernie Tafoya
June 19, 2019 - 12:06 pm
Study Finds People Don’t Think They’ll Get Arrested For Driving High
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- As Illinois gets ready to allow the recreational use of marijuana, there’s a new study out on people’s views of using marijuana and driving.

The a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey found that nearly 70 percent of Americans think it’s unlikely a driver will get caught by police for driving while high on marijuana. It also found that nearly 15-million people admitted to getting behind the wheel of a car within an hour after using marijuana over the last 30 days. 

According to AAA, the impairing effects of marijuana are usually experienced within the first one to four hours after using the drug.

“Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgment. Yet, many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving,” said Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in a statement. “It is important for everyone to understand that driving after recently using marijuana can put themselves and others at risk.”

AAA Foundation spokeswoman Beth Mosher said 13 percent of Americans believe driving within an hour of using marijuana is slightly dangerous or not dangerous at all.

"What we’re seeing, as well, from this survey is people are really under-estimating the effects that using marijuana can have on impairment and that becomes dangerous as people get into the vehicle," she said. "They actually think that some of the other risky driving behaviors like distracted driving, drinking and driving, and even drowsy driving are even more dangerous than using marijuana and driving."

Mosher said another study found that those under the influence of marijuana are twice as likely to be involved in a crash.

She said that, as Illinois prepares for people legally using marijuana recreationally, more education is needed on its effects and more training and tools will be needed by police. 

“It’s time to face the facts. Any driver who gets behind the wheel high can be arrested and prosecuted,” said Jake Nelson, AAA Director of Traffic Safety and Advocacy, in a statement. “Law enforcement officials are getting more sophisticated in their methods for identifying marijuana-impaired drivers and the consequences are not worth the risk.”

AAA recommends all drivers avoid going behind the wheel while impaired by marijuana or any other drug, including alcohol, to avoid arrest and keep the roads safe.

"Just because a drug is legal does not mean it is safe to use while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired put themselves and others at risk," AAA said.

The data collected came from a sample of 2,582 licensed drivers ages 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days.