New AAA Foundation research shows an estimated 14.8 million Americans report driving within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days
OMAHA, NE (June 19, 2019) – Nearly 70% of Americans think it’s unlikely a driver will get caught by police for driving while high on marijuana, according to a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey. An alarming finding shows that an estimated 14.8 million drivers report getting behind the wheel within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days. The impairing effects of marijuana are usually experienced within the first one to four hours after using the drug.1 Marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash.2
“Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgement. Yet, many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving,” said Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “It is important for everyone to understand that driving after recently using marijuana can put themselves and others at risk.”
In the AAA Foundation survey, 7% of Americans reported they approved of driving after recently using marijuana - more than other dangerous behaviors like alcohol-impaired driving (1.6%), drowsy driving (1.7%), and prescription drug-impaired driving (3%). Other survey findings show that:
- Millennials ages 25-39 (nearly 14%) are most likely to report driving within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days, followed by Generation Z ages 19-14 (10%).
- Men (8%) are more likely than women (5%) to report driving shortly after using marijuana in the past 30 days.
“Driving while impaired by any substance is unacceptable,” said Rose White, Nebraska Public Affairs Director, AAA–The Auto Club Group. “Law enforcement officials are getting more sophisticated in their methods for identifying marijuana-impaired drivers and the consequences are not worth the risk.”
Programs like Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and the 50-State Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program were developed to train law enforcement officers around the country to more effectively recognize drug-impaired driving. There are currently more than 87,000 ARIDE and 8,300 DECP trained officers patrolling U.S. roads. Additionally, the number of trained Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) has increased by 30% since 2013. These officers report that marijuana is the most frequently identified drug category. Since 2015, the number of drivers arrested by DREs for using marijuana increased 20%.3
In Nebraska, more than 800 law enforcement officers have successfully completed ARIDE training during the past three years. The Nebraska Department of Transportation (DOT) Highway Safety Office plans to offer additional ARIDE training programs later this year. There are currently 100 Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) in Nebraska with another 24 officers scheduled to complete training in 2019.
“With the increase in drugged driving fatalities, law enforcement agencies across Nebraska are challenged to elevate their training efforts in this area and increase the number of law enforcement officers trained in ARIDE,” said Mark Segerstrom, Highway Safety Administrator for the Nebraska Department of Transportation Highway Safety Office. “It is imperative that we are proficient to detect, arrest, and prosecute drug impaired drivers to address this critical traffic safety issue.”
AAA recommends all motorists avoid driving while impaired by marijuana or any other drug (including alcohol) to avoid arrest and keep the roads safe. Even if a drug is legal, does not mean it is safe to use while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired put themselves and others at great risk.
The new survey results are part of the AAA Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to traffic safety. The survey data are from a sample of 2,582 licensed drivers ages 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days. The AAA Foundation issued its first Traffic Safety Culture Index in 2008, and the latest report is online at www.AAAFoundation.org.
1MacDonald S. Cannabis Crashes: Myths & Truths 2019
2Hall W. What has research over the past two decades revealed about the adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use? Addiction 2015; 110: 19-35.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.
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 9.8 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 59 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.