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.
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.
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