It’s clear that cannabis use negatively affects one’s ability to drive with the potential of making a person twice as likely to get in an accident. However, the odds are a lot worse when drinking and driving. The difference in outcomes for stoned drivers versus drunk drivers relates to the way stoned drivers act behind the wheel. While drunk drivers tend to speed and make risky decisions, stoned drivers stay calm and play it safe. So how exactly do both of these substances affect the way you drive?
Alcohol and driving
Alcohol is a neuro-depressant because it slows down the functions of the central nervous system including the brain. This means that normal function is delayed, and a person is unable to mentally perform as efficient.
Alcohol affects a person’s information-processing skills, as well as and most importantly, hand-eye coordination.
Drinking alcohol prior to driving greatly increases the risk of being involved in a motor-vehicle accident. The greater the amount of alcohol consumed, the more likely a person is to be involved in an accident.
After alcohol is consumed, many of the skills that safe driving requires such as judgment, concentration, coordination, visual acuity, and reaction time – become impaired.
“Every day, 28 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 53 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion. – Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Cannabis and driving
Since cannabis is the second most commonly used substance after alcohol, it is important to understand why it can be particularly dangerous.
THC affects areas of the brain that control body movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment. Evidence from both real and simulated driving studies indicate that the herb negatively affects a driver’s attentiveness and the perception of speed and time duration.
Research also shows that impairment increases significantly when cannabis use is combined with alcohol. Studies have concluded that many drivers test positive for alcohol and THC, making it seem that drunk and stoned driving are often linked.
Many argue that the effects of cannabis on driving skill are monumentally less serious than alcohol. Smokers are usually more likely to be stopped for driving far below the speed limit than for speeding.
In addition, cannabis enthusiasts often consume at home, which lessens the odds of them driving around stoned in the first place.
Several studies report that smoking a small amount of cannabis has a very small impact on a driver’s ability behind the wheel. Those who are daily smokers can tolerate moderate doses of THC with often unnoticeable effects on driving skill.
However, drivers with excessive levels of THC in their blood have trouble staying in their lanes and responding to unexpected obstacles.
Remember, be safe and be responsible. Don’t drive when you’re impaired.