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AAA: Many drivers underestimate the danger of driving while high

Posted: 6:09 AM, Jun 19, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-19 11:57:04-04

DEARBORN, Mich. (WXYZ) — A new survey by AAA shows driving high is seen 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.

AAA is singling out our state as one that needs to act.

“Michigan needs to prepare for the impact legal marijuana use will have on the safety of its roads," an AAA spokesperson said. "That includes more tools and training for law enforcement officers and a substantial public awareness effort.”

Nationally, 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 and marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash.

In the AAA Foundation survey, over 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 comes as Michigan expects hundreds of recreational marijuana shops to open next year.