Poll: Drugged Driving Versus Drunken Driving

DruggedDriving

Earlier this month, we presented Cars.com readers with an overview on the state of the drugged driving issue and where it's headed with regard to scientific study and law enforcement as more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana. But based on many comments we and our affiliates received on the story, how lawful marijuana could be absorbed into the legal system as it pertains to driving safety was not the conversation readers wanted to have. A great many, instead, preferred to discuss their belief that driving while high is less dangerous than driving while drunk — or, according to some, not dangerous at all.

Legalized Marijuana Makes Drugged-Driving Study High Priority

As a federal study nears completion in hopes of nailing down definitive data on how using marijuana affects driving abilities, other studies have shown that weed smoking is far less likely to result in a car crash. According to a New York Times story, an aggregated report of many individual studies concluded a widely accepted twofold increase in the risk of a crash when the driver had any measurable amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his or her bloodstream. While that figure pales by comparison to alcohol's nine- to 20-fold risk increase depending on the driver's age, researchers stated they do believe marijuana is a crash contributor, if perhaps a less-than-expected one.

Evidence-based conclusions and how those scientific findings ultimately inform the crafting of effective drugged-driving laws will be worked out in due course. What could prove to be more influential in the meantime are drivers' attitudes on the subject. According to the results of a study released earlier this month, the jury is decidedly still in on the subject and an overwhelming majority of people believe driving while high is much safer than driving while drunk. The study, commissioned by Shawn Lock of winemaking-enthusiast website WineCraftsman.com and polling 1,000 people, concluded that more than 84 percent of Americans believe it is worse to drive after drinking than after smoking marijuana. That should come as little shock to anyone who pays any attention to popular culture, but some of the finer details of the study were pretty interesting:

  • Nearly twice as many respondents older than 65 think marijuana is worse than do respondents ages 18-24.
  • Among people who earn more than $100,000 a year, 100 percent say high drivers are safer than drunken drivers.
  • Likewise, people who make less than $25,000 also said drinking and driving is worse.
  • Although suburbanites, too, favored the high driver as the safer of the two, only 79 percent favored marijuana over alcohol as opposed to 84 percent overall.

Even if our collective mind is made up, and the evidence still inconclusive, we'd be hard-pressed to take seriously anyone's argument in favor driving under the influence of any intoxicating substance. But we're interested in what you think about the matter, nonetheless. Get on your high horse and make your opinion known by taking the poll below.

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Cars.com photo illustration by Paul Dolan; photos by Dario Lo Presti/iStock/Thinkstock, Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock, defun/iStock/Thinkstock and itayuri/iStock/Thinkstock

By Matt Schmitz | June 25, 2014 | Comments (6)

Comments 

FlanKitty

I wish could select 2 options for the poll: that cannabis users generally know that driving while wasted is a bad idea (as opposed to the "liquid courage" effect of alcohol) and that being under the influence of any mood/reaction altering substance while driving, even prescribed ones, is a bad thing(tm).

BigJohn

I would feel much safer riding in a car with a driver who has smoked pot than with one who was drunk, but would rather they be stone cold sober. I'm almost fifty. I did my share of partying when I was young and dumb. I smoked lots of pot back in the day, "experimented" daily with it for several years. I've driven after smoking and after drinking. Drinking and driving caused me all sorts of problems. I had more than one fender bender that way, but never had problems after smoking pot. It would make me very anxious if I was really high and I'd drive really slow. Alcohol impairs you much worse, and it gives you confidence you shouldn't have and leads to risk taking behavior, whereas pot kind of does the opposite. That said, it's a bad idea to do either.

I'm a lawyer now and have actually handled an awful lot of DWI cases in the last couple of decades, many involving intoxicants other than alcohol. What's really interesting is watching the videos from patrol cars, jails, the police station or wherever they conduct field sobriety tests. You can see how impaired people are on the videos, and you can see that people can get "knee walking drunk" from alcohol and pills, but typically people who have just smoked pot don't seem that impaired. They may be impaired enough to fail field sobriety tests, but usually they barely fail if they fail.

Again, I think it's wrong to drive while intoxicated on anything, but clearly some intoxicants can cause a whole lot more impairment than others and pot is not one of those. Why do most people under 65 agree with that? Because according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over half of all American adults under 65 have smoked pot. We hit that point a few years ago and those of us in the majority who have smoked pot mostly all drank too and we know the difference in the two drugs and the level of impairment they cause.

WTF

Impairment is impairment and directing your comments towards a comparison of the effects of marijuana being less risky than the effects of alcohol is still in effect a distorted way of justifying that it's somehow okay. It's not.

J

Do we have to watch the Mythbusters' episode again?

Audi

i have driven high and drunk, and by far alcohol is the worse of the options. When I'm stoned i call a friend to drive, when I'm drunk i have to make sure i give my keys to friends before i get drunk or i will risk driving myself. like stated above alcohol is liquid courage

Vik

@WTF

BigJohn clearly said in his post:

"That said, it's a bad idea to do either."

"Again, I think it's wrong to drive while intoxicated on anything"

How is stating the belief that one causes less impairment than the other "justifying that it's somehow okay" with the caveats he clearly stated above?

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