June 19, 2019 – With marijuana consumption rising in the region, AAA Oklahoma and state law enforcement are warning of the dangerous impact it poses for driving safety.
Public Misperceptions Revealed
A new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey reveals that nearly 70% of Americans think it’s unlikely a driver will get caught by police for driving while high on marijuana. An estimated 14.8 million Americans report driving within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days.
The most impairing effects of marijuana are usually experienced within the first one to four hours after using the drug.1 And marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash.2
“Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair drivers’ judgement that puts themselves and others at great risk. Yet, many drivers don’t consider it as unacceptable as behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving,” said Leslie Gamble, AAA Oklahoma public and government affairs manager. “Everyone should understand that driving after recently using marijuana begs tragedy.”
In the AAA Foundation survey, 7% of Americans reported they approved of driving after recently using marijuana - more than other dangerous behaviors like alcohol-impaired driving (1.6%), drowsy driving (1.7%), and prescription drug-impaired driving (3%). Other survey findings show that:
• Millennials (nearly 14%) are most likely to report driving within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days, followed by Generation Z (10%).
• Men (8%) are more likely than women (5%) to report driving shortly after using marijuana in the past 30 days.
Law Enforcement & Justice System Gear Up
Programs like Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program were developed to train law enforcement officers around the country to more effectively recognize drug-impaired driving. State law officers are receiving training to prepare for expected increases in drivers’ under-the-influence of marijuana - and often alcohol and other drugs as well – that may ignore warnings and hit the roads.
“The fact is any driver who gets behind the wheel high can be arrested and prosecuted,” said Gamble. “Law enforcement officials are getting more sophisticated in their methods for identifying marijuana-impaired drivers and the consequences are not worth the risk. Arrests for marijuana-impaired driving have increased 20% across the nation since 2015.
Oklahoma has more than 3,200 ARIDE and DECP-trained officers, part of more than 87,000 ARIDE and 10,200 DECP-trained officers patrolling U.S. roads. Additionally, the number of trained Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) in Oklahoma now number 180, with a national increase in forces of 30% since 2013. These officers report that marijuana is the most frequently identified drug category.
The new survey results are part of the AAA Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to traffic safety. The survey data are from a sample of 2,582 licensed drivers ages 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days. The AAA Foundation issued its first Traffic Safety Culture Index in 2008, and the latest report is online at www.AAAFoundation.org.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.
About AAA: AAA provides more than 59 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 34 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.