Etiquette

AAA says many drivers underestimate dangers of marijuana impairment

As Illinois steps closer to the expected legalization of recreational marijuana in 2020, a new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is raising concerns about driver perceptions of the dangers of driving high.

Nationally, an estimated 14.8 million drivers report getting behind the wheel within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days, according to the study.

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“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,” said 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, more than 13% of those responding 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%).

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Other survey findings show that:

• Nearly 70% think a driver is unlikely to be caught by 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.

“Illinois needs to prepare for the impact legal marijuana use will have on the safety of its roads,” said Nick Jarmusz, Midwest director of Public affairs for AAA. “That includes more tools and training for law enforcement officers and a substantial public awareness effort, especially for teens and young adults.”