As states across the U.S. continue to steer towards recreational cannabis legalization, many law enforcement officers and local lawmakers are fretting about how to keep pot users from getting behind the wheel after toking up. A new study conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) suggests that these widespread concerns about people driving stoned are completely justified.
After surveying 2,800 teenagers, researchers found that a staggering 33 percent think driving while under the influence of marijuana is legal. On top of that, 20 percent reported that doing so is a common practice among their friends. The same survey data showed that 88 percent of teens believe that operating a motor vehicle while drunk is dangerous, but just 68 feel the same way about cannabis.
Interestingly enough, the perception that driving high isn’t dangerous is not just exclusive to teenagers. 1,000 parents were also surveyed for the study, and found that 27 percent think it’s legal, and 14 percent claim that it’s common among friends. Another recent study by used car dealership Instamotor found equally worrisome statistics. According to their survey of 600 residents living in states with recreational legalization, 39 percent of the participants stated that they feel comfortable getting in the driver’s seat within two hours after smoking cannabis.
Aside from sharing the data from their study, SADD and Liberty Mutual also offered some suggestions to parents in order to ensure their children don’t drive stoned. They recommend that parents take the initiative to start the conversation with their teens, and set clear expectations about not driving under the influence of pot. Additionally, the researchers also propose that parents create a secret code for their children to text if they need to be picked up with "no questions asked."
“Driving under the influence of marijuana significantly impairs motor coordination, judgment and reaction time. It’s important for parents and teens alike to understand the importance of not smoking marijuana and driving to help keep everyone safe on the road,” said Mike Sample, lead driving safety expert and technical consultant at Liberty Mutual.
All the while, scientists have been working to develop the framework for accurate cannabis breathalyzer testing methods to help police determine whether someone is under the influence or not. In California, highway patrol officers are now able to use mouth swabs to test drivers for cannabis intoxication. Still, until the science manages to catch up with recreational legalization laws, educating both teenagers and parents on the risks of cannabis-induced driving will be a pivotal step towards keeping the roads safe.