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Some drivers underestimate the danger of driving while high, AAA survey shows

Posted at 12:28 PM, Jun 19, 2019

DETROIT — A new survey by AAA shows driving high is viewed as less dangerous than driving drunk, distracted or drowsy — but drivers are underestimating the dangers of marijuana impairment.

Researchers found that while smoking weed is now legal, few understand the legalities of driving high — or at the very least — drivers don't think they'll get caught doing something illegal.

“Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgment. Yet, many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving,” David Yang , executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a press release .

Nationally, in the past 30 days, an estimated 14.8 million drivers reported getting behind the wheel within one hour of using marijuana. The impairing effects of marijuana are usually experienced within one to four hours of using the drug, and marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash.

In the AAA Foundation survey, more than 13% of Americans viewed driving within an hour after using marijuana as only “slightly dangerous” or “not dangerous at all” — far more than other risky behaviors like alcohol-impaired driving (1.2%), drowsy driving (1%) and prescription drug-impaired driving (2.2%).

Other survey findings show that:

  • Nearly 70% of respondents think a driver is unlikely to be caught by the police when driving within an hour after using marijuana.
  • Millennials (nearly 14%) are most likely to report driving within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days, followed by Generation Z (10%).
  • Men (8%) are more likely than women (5%) to report driving shortly after using marijuana in the past 30 days.

AAA says more police officers need training for recognizing drug use in the field, something known as "Drug Recognition Experts."

This story was originally published by Matthew Smith on WXYZ .