Over half of Michigan's medical marijuana users admit to driving while high. Here's why that's just as dangerous as drunk driving.

Mark Thiessen/APImagesDriving while high can impair a person’s coordination and reaction time, making it as dangerous as driving while drunk.

While the dangers of drunk driving are well known, people continue to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. And new data from the University of Michigan shows that an alarming amount of people drive while high too, CBS News reported.

To determine this, researchers surveyed 800 of Michigan’s medical marijuana users and found that 51% drove within two hours of using the substance. To make matters more alarming, one in five of the respondents said they were “very high” at some point when driving in the last six months.

“There is a low perceived risk about driving after using marijuana, but we want people to know that they should ideally wait several hours to operate a vehicle after using cannabis, regardless of whether it is for medical use or not,” Erin E. Bonar, the lead author of the study, said in a press release.

Like alcohol, marijuana can impair a person’s coordination and reaction time

Bonar’s warning makes sense. According to the CDC, marijuana “negatively affects a number of skills required for safe driving.”

Marijuana pipeJustin Sullivan / StaffA roadside test for drug levels has yet be created.

Specifically, marijuana has been linked to impaired coordination, memory loss, delayed reaction times, and difficulty problem solving, the CDC wrote on its website. All of these skills are important for staying alert while operating a vehicle, so marijuana use could potentially put a high driver and others in danger.

Read more:
More women are using marijuana while pregnant, and it could be putting their babies at risk

Data on the dangers of driving while high is currently lacking though since a roadside test for drug levels has yet be created, the CDC explained. One 2009 study from The American Journal on Addictions, however, found that driving while high creates a similar risk for car crashes as driving drunk does and when the two substances are mixed, the risk for a car accident is even greater.

Research suggests you should wait about 3 hours to drive after using marijuana

After determining this information, the researchers suggested marijuana users wait at least three hours after smoking to drive a motor vehicle, or even better, enlist a designated driver to safely operate the car.

“Although not all marijuana smokers are impulsive risk-takers, impulsive risk-takers are likely to smoke marijuana, drive recklessly, and also smoke marijuana before driving,” the study’s authors wrote.

The CDC took this recommendation one step further, noting that driving is safest when there is no marijuana left in the bloodstream. “If you intend to drive, the safest option is not to have any alcohol or drugs in your system at all,” they explained on their website.


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