Motorists who have recently used marijuana are more likely to crash, still subject to arrest

30 December 2019

AURORA, Ill., (December 27, 2019) – According to a survey conducted last month by AAA – The Auto Club Group, two-thirds (66%) of AAA members in Illinois say that they are “extremely” or “very concerned” about the impact of marijuana use on roadway safety.  Those concerns are well founded, as an analysis by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety discovered that the proportion of drivers involved in fatal crashes who had recently used marijuana doubled in Washington state after it became one of the first to legalize recreational use.

“Impaired driving jeopardizes public safety on our roadways regardless of whether the substance used is legal, prescribed, obtained over-the counter or purchased in a retail setting,” said Molly Hart, spokesperson for AAA-The Auto Club Group. “Even after recreational marijuana becomes legal in Illinois, driving under the influence of the drug will remain a serious offense.”

AAA urges all motorists to avoid driving while impaired by alcohol, marijuana or any other drug. Anyone who uses marijuana should understand how it can negatively impact their ability to drive safely:

  • Marijuana can decrease car handling, performance and attention, while increasing reaction times, following distance and lane deviation.
  • Impairment from marijuana – and the increased crash risk for users who get behind the wheel – is greatest within the first hour after use.
  • While the state has established a per se limit of 5 ng/mL of THC in the blood (the point at which a driver is automatically considered intoxicated under the law), it is possible for marijuana users to be dangerously impaired and charged with a DUI at lower concentrations.
  • Mixing alcohol and marijuana may produce greater impairment than either would on its own.

“Marijuana affects people differently based on a wide range of factors,” continued Hart. “If you plan to drive, don’t consume marijuana.  And if you consume marijuana, don’t drive.”

AAA has already taken action to address the impact recreational marijuana will have on the safety of Illinois roadways.  In November, AAA hosted a two-day Impaired Driving Summit attended by state, county and local law enforcement, national experts on the effects of marijuana and driving, prosecutors, and other traffic safety stakeholders – all in an effort to continue to make the roadways safer.

This week, AAA is launching a digital social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook (@AAAChicago on both platforms) aimed at building awareness for members and reminding the public that it is illegal to drive while impaired by marijuana.  

The 2019 Illinois Transportation Survey was conducted online among ACG territory members in Illinois from October 30, 2019 – November 10, 2019.  A total of 1,695 residents completed the survey.  Survey results have a maximum margin of error of ± 2.4 percentage points.

For more information on how marijuana and other drugs impact safety on the roads, visit www.AAA.com/DriveSober.

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About The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, insurance, financial services and travel offerings to over 9.9 million members across eleven states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 60 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. Visit AAA on the Internet at AAA.com.