Marijuana-related automobile fatality studies based on inaccurate data, driving simulators


There’s going to be a slew of reports in the next few months about marijuana-related traffic deaths increasing in the United States as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wraps up a three-year study on marijuana and it’s impact on drivers. And, as usual, they are likely going to claim that stoned drivers are a plague on the roads and that there are masses of red-eyed, resin-fingered pot smokers out killing people on the roadway.

The NHTSA study has participants getting stoned and driving then researchers measure the stoned driver’s performance against a non-stoned driver. Oh, and they aren’t really driving cars. They are driving in a simulator. Because video games are always like real life and our government would never purposefully slant the findings to fit their agenda, nor would would anyone ever manipulate the simulator during the test, right? The NHTSA also say they have looked at roadside information collected by law enforcement and estimate that as much as six percent of the drivers on the road at night in the United States are stoned.
But the NHTSA study isn’t the only thing likely to get news traction. A recent report from the Colorado Department of Transportation shows an increase in the number of drivers in fatal accidents who test positive has gone up. But here’s the deal: the researchers never once measured impairment. The only thing they tested was whether or not people had latent or inactive THC in their system, which is an indicator of past use but doesn’t mean that the person was stoned at the time of the wreck. Despite that, anti-marijuana groups like SMART Colorado have jumped on the stats and claim that marijuana kills one person every week on our roadways.
There’s more. A recent Columbia University study claims that 12 percent of people out of the 24,000 traffic fatalities had marijuana in their system. According to them, that means that marijuana contributed to the accident. But since they can’t determine that the person was high at the time of the wreck based on the information collected, the data is mere speculation.
We’re not saying that stoned driving can’t be a problem and that nobody should get behind the wheel while impaired on any substance – but the reality is that marijuana use likely hasn’t greatly increased in the last few years and people have been smoking pot and driving for decades. What is much easier to tell, however, are statistics related to drunk driving. We could spout off a dozen, but probably the most telling one is that 28 people die every day as a result of drunk drivers in this country.