Study: Weed Smokers are Slower, Safer Drivers

NU Online News Service, April 9, 12:15 p.m. EDT

A provider of free online auto insurance quotes says it has conducted a study that concludes marijuana uses are safer drivers.

Manhattan-based 4AutoInsuranceQuote.com says its study “seeks to dispel the thought that ‘driving while stoned’ is dangerous.”

“What law enforcement agencies and insurers do not understand is that driving while high is actually a safe activity,” says James Shaffer, chief executive officer of the national auto-quote provider, in a statement.

Marijuana users may get into fewer accidents than other drivers, says the study, which looked at data on accidents, traffic violations and insurance prices. The only significant effect of smoking marijuana may be slower driving.

“Marijuana users often say that when they are high, they feel like they are driving 80 mph but actually are only going 30 mph,” says Shaffer. The opposite is true for drunk drivers, he adds. There are less traffic fatalities and fewer accidents in states where medical marijuana use is legal, Shaffer’s company concludes.

“This is what makes alcohol dangerous behind the wheel and marijuana safe,” Shaffer says.

Shaffer says marijuana users could see lower insurance rates if smoking the drug and driving was accepted. In the meantime, he says, “the key to safer driving is to use marijuana, but do it under wraps.”

The study by 4AutoInsuranceQuotes.org references other studies, including one done in 1983 by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration that found marijuana smokers to be slower drivers, the online quote service says.

Another study by the NHTSA in the Netherlands found marijuana users drove straight. A study in Australia concluded the drug users were more likely to maintain a consistent speed and less likely to pass other vehicles.

While there is plenty of research from multiple countries found via the Internet to support Shaffer’s claims, many other studies have found smoking pot and driving to be a bad idea.

A study released in the British Medical Journal earlier this year says those who smoke marijuana and drive within a few hours are nearly twice as likely to get into an accident as a sober driver.

The conclusion was made by researchers at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada after looking at nine studies of more than 49,000 drivers who had been treated for serious injuries after a crash.

Evidence from real and simulated driving studies say a driver’s attentiveness, perception of time and speed, and ability to draw on information obtained from past experiences can be negatively affected by marijuana use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Marijuana use is surpassing alcohol use among teen drivers, according to a recent study of 2,294 high school juniors and seniors conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions.

Nearly 20 percent of teen drivers reported having driven under the influence of marijuana in the recent survey. About 36 percent of these teens said the drug presented no distraction to their driving.

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