One of the biggest debates that swirl around the concept of cannabis legalization is how it will affect the number of people who are driving while under the influence of marijuana. Because of this, the amount of studies on the subject seems to be steadily increasing.
A new survey out of Colorado – a state with legal recreational cannabis sales – sheds some light on how people there feel about “stoned driving” and just how dangerous it is. The Colorado Department of Transportation conducted a survey of some 11,000 anonymous drivers, marijuana users and non-users both included, to get their responses to a wide range of topics about impairment and driving.
Almost 70% of respondents said they have driven under the influence of marijuana at least once in the past year, while 27% say they do so almost daily.
“What this information tells us is that Colorado still has a lot of work to do in order to change behavior,” said CDOT Communications Manager Sam Cole. “CDOT has been successful in raising awareness about the laws and consequences of driving high, but now our big focus is on how we can turn that awareness into action and increase safety on our roadways.”
“This is a complex issue, evidenced in the fact that we’re seeing quite a few mixed messages from our outreach,” Cole continued. “While 40 percent of recreational users said they don’t think being under the influence of marijuana affects their ability to drive safely, almost half of all survey participants said driving under the influence of marijuana puts people in danger.”
While many who oppose cannabis legalization will point out, traffic fatalities have been on the rise in recent years, but what they will leave out is the fact that fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled have remained relatively unchanged since 2009, where they rest at the lowest levels seen in the history of the statistic, which began in 1921. They will also gloss over the fact that the total numbers of vehicle fatalities per year are still below what they were from 1963 to 1991, despite there being tens of millions more vehicles on the road today.
While no one is advocating that people should use cannabis and then drive immediately after, it’s important to keep things in perspective and not be quick to demonize cannabis users as clogging the roadways of America with their reckless motor vehicle use.