Time to get mad, change attitudes about stoned driving, part 2

Read Part I: Time to get mad about stoned driving.  The next step is to change attitudes about stoned driving.

Marijuana Policy Project promoted marijuana as an alternative to alcohol in the 2012 campaign to legalize pot in Colorado.  However, the recent Rocky Mountain HIDTA Report revealed the overlap between those who use marijuana and drink before driving.   It’s not a substitution, but an adjunct to alcohol.  The alcohol industry has been selling more since legalization.

Recent HIDTA Report shows that the number marijuana+  drivers who combine it with alcohol is equal to the marijuana-only drivers who get DUIs. A significant portion of drivers combine marijuana with other drugs, 21%.

Marijuana Use Adds to Alcohol Problems

A large portion of marijuana positive drivers in Colorado also tested positive for alcohol, 36%.  This figure equals the percentage who test positive for marijuana only.  Additionally, 21% of marijuana DUI drivers in fatal crashes used other drugs and 7% mixed marijuana, alcohol and other drugs.

Timothy Barnette, Photo Credit: NBC News San Diego

Marijuana users obviously mix and match marijuana with alcohol and other drugs.  They also minimize the risks of driving under its influence. Timothy Barnette, 19, drove impaired when he killed another driver, Nick Hart, 22.   At sentencing, he said, “From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry.”

He continued: “I had no idea how much of a risk I was causing to the public while driving under the influence.  I wish I could go back in time knowing what I know now so I could try to change things.”  Barnette, like many pot users, mixed marijuana and Xanax, even when driving, but had  no idea it was dangerous

The idea that marijuana is somehow safer than alcohol has fooled people, so we must change attitudes.  In a few tragic cases, drivers

refused the opportunities to drink alcohol, but they had used marijuana.   Kristina Garza and Stephanie Nicole Proffitt died because they rode in the car of their boyfriends who had toked.

Teen study in legal states also troubling

Two more studies,one about teens and one about adults, prove the widespread ignorance of the dangers of driving while high.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Students Against Destructive Decisions conducted a study of 2800 teens in states that have legalized marijuana.

Kristina Garza,was killed in Michigan, August 19, 2015.  She had been riding in a car with her boyfriend under the influence of marijuana, but not alcohol or other drugs.  Photo from Michiganlive

One third of those surveyed thought that driving under the influence of marijuana is legal in states where it’s recreational.  More than 20% of teens reported it’s common among their friends. The study also found that parents’ perceptions were not much different.  Of the 1,000 who took the survey, 27% said it’s legal and 14% said it’s common among friends.

Among all those who took the survey, 88% thought drunk driving was dangerous, while 68% thought stoned driving was bad.

Colorado Department of Transportation Study

The Colorado Department of Transportation also conducted a survey.   It showed disturbing trends in the adult population of Colorado.   The survey revealed that 57% of people who reported using marijuana drove within two hours after consumption.  Participants who reported consuming and then driving said they did so on 11.7 days a month.

By comparison, 38% of respondents who drank alcoholic beverages reported driving within two hours of consumption. They did it on 2.8 days a month.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported in their 2016 Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado that there is substantial evidence that delaying driving at least 6 hours after smoking less than 18 mg THC (8 hours after oral ingestion of less than 18 mg THC) allows THC-induced impairment to resolve or nearly resolve for users who use infrequently, less than once a week.  For those who use pot more frequently or higher THC pot, these guidelines do not apply and they should consider not driving at all.

If stoners brag about not getting into accidents, they should remember that speeding doesn’t cause accidents most of the time. Their luck may run out at some point.  Driving under the influence of marijuana significantly impairs motor coordination, judgment and reaction time.

Mike Sample, lead driving safety expert and technical consultant at Liberty Mutual, in a release. “It’s important for parents and teens alike to understand the importance of not smoking marijuana and driving to help keep everyone safe on the road.”