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Americans don’t think they’ll get arrested for driving high

By Norwalk Reflector staff • Jun 28, 2019 at 10:00 PM

Nearly 70 percent 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.

Moreover, 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. And marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash, according to information provided by AAA.

“Despite marijuana’s effect on a driver’s judgement and reaction times, many driver’s don’t view driving high the same way they view behaviors like drunk or distracted driving,” said Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs for AAA East Central. “This misunderstanding can have deadly consequences, and motorists should familiarize themselves with the dangers of driving high.”

In the AAA Foundation survey, 7 percent of Americans reported they approved of driving after recently using marijuana — more than other dangerous behaviors like alcohol-impaired driving (1.6 percent), drowsy driving (1.7 percent), and prescription drug-impaired driving (3 percent).

Other survey findings show that:

• Millennials (nearly 14 percent) are most likely to report driving within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days, followed by Generation Z (10 percent).

• Men (8 percent) are more likely than women (5 percent) to report driving shortly after using marijuana in the past 30 days.

As marijuana legalization becomes more prevalent, law enforcement officials are getting more sophisticated in their methods for identifying marijuana-impaired drivers. Programs such as 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 percent 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 percent.

Just because 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 risk.

AAA recommend the following tips to avoid driving impaired:

• Make transportation arrangements, such as designating a driver, taking a cab or a ride share or utilizing local public transit.

• Rent a hotel room or stay overnight at a friend’s home.

• If hosting a party, offer non-alcoholic drinks to designated drivers.

• Take the car keys away from friends and relatives who are impaired.

The 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 latest report is online at www.AAAFoundation.org.

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