One of the major concerns following the legalization of medical and recreational use of marijuana is the risk of road accidents when drivers are under the influence. But not really. This is because legalizing marijuana does not necessarily mean more people are going to smoke this drug.

According to a survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration there has been a significant increase in the number of drivers who have tested positive for marijuana. However, Richmond alcohol is believed to remain a more deadly threat.

Increase in drugged driving

In a survey conducted over two years between 2013 and 2014, the NHTSA found a 50% increase in the number of drivers who tested positive for pot since 2007 with figures increases from 8.6% to 12.6% in 2014. As many as 22 percent drivers tested positive for drugs that included over the counter and prescription medications. While the number of drug-impaired drivers continued to increase, the figures for driving under the influence of alcohol declined by one-third since 2007.

According to Richmond Virginia DUI attorneys, stricter laws and public awareness campaigns have played a major role in reducing DUI cases by over three-quarters since 1973. NHTSA’s chief Mark Rosekind warned that the increase in the use of marijuana and other drugs poses a tough challenge when it comes to reducing accidents and saving lives. Marijuana is believed to impair the psychomotor skills and cognitive functions, which are critical for safe driving.

Drunk vs. drugged driving

On the other hand, another study, one of the largest surveys conducted in Virginia Beach, Virginia, over a 20-month period that assessed the risks of drunk vs. drugged driving, indicates that pot may not impair drivers as much as alcohol. The study involved data from over 3,000 drivers involved in accidents.

For the purpose of comparison, data was also collected from around 6,000 drivers not involved in crashes. Results of the survey indicated that despite marijuana users more likely to be involved in accidents, the risks were more due to demographics where young men were the high risk group.

Marijuana impairs judgment

The NHTSA ‘s associate administrator for research and program development warns that drivers must never even think of driving when impaired since marijuana can impair judgment and reaction times. It also makes an individual less aware of the surroundings. According to Richmond Virginia DUI attorneys, one of the major worries is that marijuana remains in the body for hours and sometimes days, which makes assessment of crash risks much more difficult. Some studies suggest that the effects of marijuana peak within half an hour and diminish completely within three hours of intake.

Drivers on pot less risky?

Drivers under the influence of marijuana are likely to be more aware that they are impaired when compared to drunk drivers. They are likely to drive slower and avoid taking risks. However, marijuana and alcohol combined can increase impairment while driving well beyond the effects of either substance used alone.

According to the NHTSA survey, 1.5% of the 8% drivers found driving under the influence of alcohol on weekend nights were found with a BAC level of .08% or higher, which is the legal limit. The number of drivers that registered more than 0.08% of alcohol was down 30% as compared to 2007.