Juliet McGuire

Weed linked to increase in car accidents

Now that the private use of weed/dope/marijuana/ganja/pot/Mary Jane/ reefer/blunt/herb/dagga is legal here in South Africa, could it lead to more road accidents? This is what some of the folk over in California are claiming.

NBCNews.com reported last year that there had been an increase of up to 6% in the number of highway accidents in the four states where the recreational use of weed had been legalised. The study, however, has not been able to prove that there is a direct risk caused by the use of weed among motorists, but they raise caution flags. It is early in the game, but they are seeing a trend in the wrong direction.

Like in South Africa, since the legalisation wave began, the USA’s safety and health experts have been trying to measure the potential influence on highway safety, but the results so far have been inconsistent and, in some cases, contradictory.

With that said, the article goes on to say that this is the second year in a row where the IIHS found a troubling trend. The studies looked at police reports and insurance claims, finding crashes rose between 5.2 percent and 6 percent in states with legalised recreational marijuana compared to neighbouring states where such use remained illegal. 

Another worrying finding was that about 14 percent of those confirmed to be under the influence of weed had a child in their vehicle.


One does, however, need to understand that these studies have their limits. There is a “correlation,” reflecting the fact that crashes rose once pot became legal, but that is not the same as “causation,” meaning other, unseen factors could be at work.

Part of the problem is that it is difficult to accurately measure how pot impacts drivers. As Business Day reports, “Proving whether a person is under a narcotic effect is difficult. As tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive constituent of marijuana, remains in a person’s system for much longer than alcohol – sometimes for weeks – it’s tricky to establish limits and laws around cannabis use.”

But does smoking the herb before driving really have an impact on your driving?

Well yes, obviously it does, dumbass. Last year, Business Day reported on an experiment conducted by pro-cannabis lobbyists, Fields of Green for All, who set out to determine the effects of driving under the influence of cannabis. They set up a driving experiment at a closed test facility in which volunteers drove under the influence of cannabis. The results were pretty obvious. The more stoned someone was, the worse their driving got.

How does it impact your driving?

From driving simulation research we know that using cannabis has been shown to impair key driving-related skills including reaction time, tracking ability, and target detection; cognitive skills like judgment, anticipation, and divided attention; and executive functions like route planning and risk taking.

Legally though?

When Business Day spoke to Rhys Evans, director at ALCO-Safe, he said that in theory, any person caught with even traces of marijuana in their system whilst driving can currently be arrested and/or prosecuted. Even if it is hard to prove.

Weed vs alcohol

This has to be the dumbest argument in the history of arguments. Why do we even argue about it? We know alcohol is a potent drug that can cause a wave of destruction in its path, but marijuana can also have a negative impact. Why do we care which is worse? Why not accept that both can have a roll to play in something shitty?

Just to be clear, I do not smoke weed. It just doesn’t agree with me (and believe me, I have tried it all). But I do love my wine. Yes, all you potheads, I know you’re going to throw stats at me to prove that alcohol is in fact the devil blah blah blah, BUT, when it comes to driving, I stand firmly on the basis that you should not be behind the wheel if your mind is altered in ANY way.

I don’t drink and drive. Ever! I don’t have just ‘one or two’ and then get in to my car and drive home. I have taken over 800 Uber trips over five years, and I am a motoring journalist who tests cars for a living, so you must know then just how often I drink use Uber. It’s a non negotiable with me. No matter how drunk or not drunk I think I am, I do not drive.

But I believe that regardless of what the studies show us, we are all adults who make our own choices. Just don’t make a stupid one.

As with drinking and driving, your deterrent should not be that you could get caught and prosecuted, but more that you could injure or kill someone.

It’s simple: Don’t drink and drive! Don’t smoke and drive!

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