Atlanta, GA- as the push for broader legalization for medical and recreational marijuana rages, a new study of underage college students finds that more of them drive after smoking pot than they do after drinking.
In a study which appeared in the May 12 issue of JAMA Pediatrics, researchers questioned 315 college students between the ages of 18 and 20 at two public universities and found that the majority were more likely to drive stoned than drunk.
Forty-four percent of college men admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana within the last month while only 12 percent admitted to driving after drinking. Fifty-one percent also admitted to riding with a stoned driver.
College women are however more cautious, only 9 percent admitted to stoned driving and a mere 2 percent admitted to drunken driving, according to the study.
Both college age women and men were less cautious about riding with stoned or drunk drivers. Fifty-one percent of college age and 35 percent of college women said they rode with a driver who had been smoking marijuana. They were less likely to ride with a drunken driver.
Jan Withers, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said, said the results of this study were “worrisome,” and encourage parents to teach their children the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The study also shows that the same stigma attached to drunken driving doesn’t apply to driving under the influence of marijuana.
Americans are moving closer to marijuana legalization both for medicinal and recreational use, and if it becomes more widely available there is concern that stoned driving will become a larger epidemic. In fact, the possibility that stoned driving could become serious problem is the most convincing and valid criticism of broader marijuana legalization.
In a study released in February, researchers at Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention found that fatal accidents were a driver tested positive for marijuana use increased from 4.2 percent from 12.2 percent between 1999 and 2010. They analyzed crash data from six states-California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.
While there could be a number of reasons from the increase, lead researcher Joanne Brady, speculated that decriminalization for marijuana is a possible culprit.
“Although each of these states has laws that prohibit driving under the influence of marijuana, it is still conceivable that its decriminalization may result in increases in crashes involving marijuana,” Brady said.
So far, there are no field tests law enforcement can utilize to determine if a driver is stoned. A breath test for marijuana intoxication is currently being researched but it will be years before they can be used by law enforcement in the field.
People may have a casual attitude towards stoned driving, but they are subject to the same laws as a drunken driver. A DUI-marijuana charge can have serious consequences and avoiding a conviction requires a strong defense. A DUI attorney has the skills necessary to build an effective defense and give the offender the best chance they have to minimize their penalties and avoid conviction.