No, you don’t drive better on weed
I continue to support the legalization of recreational marijuana in New Jersey. To date, not a single overdose death from marijuana has been recorded. Unlike other drugs and alcohol, it just doesn't happen.
Accidents are another story. The single best argument opponents of legalization have is the possibility of normalizing marijuana use thus increasing the incidents of driving while high. Yes, people are doing it already. The fear is more will be doing it. With the talk of including smoke rooms inside marijuana shops it's a valid concern.
When this has come up on our show, invariably people call in to tout the benefits of driving while high. Many believe marijuana makes them a better driver. They say it calms them down, helps them focus. Which, of course, is preposterous. Marijuana slows your reaction time. It's a known fact. It impairs your motor skills and affects your judgment. Studies have found a direct relationship between impaired driving ability and being high on weed.
Now comes some interesting numbers to further back all this up. AAA Northeast examined traffic fatality figures from the past decade. Turns out more fatally-injured drivers in the Garden State tested positive for drugs than alcohol in 2015 and 2016, reversing a trend from years before. But that's all drugs. So you might think, yeah but not marijuana.
Among drivers who died in crashes during 2016, 92 of them tested positive for alcohol. 31 tested positive for narcotics. 49 tested positive for marijuana. Clearly it isn't safe to drive after smoking marijuana, and it certainly does not make you a better driver. Yet more are starting to believe it. According to AAA, in 2013 76 percent considered it unacceptable to drive within an hour of using marijuana. Only 4 years later that percentage dropped to 66. More people are thinking it's okay at the same time more people are dying in car accidents with drugs in their systems than alcohol. Read Dino Flammia's full story about this here.
Robert Sinclair, Jr. with AAA Northeast puts it simply, "We think that with all the legislation that's happening with marijuana, that it's sort of de-stigmatizing the use of the drug and getting behind the wheel."
And that, my friend, is the one drawback to an otherwise sound plan of legalization.
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