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Risks of marijuana-impaired driving ignored: PCI

Risks of marijuana-impaired driving ignored: PCI

Despite evidence that U.S. traffic deaths increase dramatically every April 20, otherwise known as National Weed Day, a majority of Americans don’t think there any danger on the roads, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America said Wednesday.

Chicago-based PCI said in a statement that an online survey of over 1,000 adults conducted April 5-12 found that more than 68% of respondents see no difference in road safety on April 20 than on the same day one week before or one week after.

This comes despite a study by the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine publication that showed traffic fatalities were 12% more likely on April 20 after 4:20 p.m., the time the nationwide smoking celebration traditionally begins, PCI said. Both the date and time refer to 4/20, a slang reference to marijuana that dates back to the 1970s.

National Weed Day is even more dangerous for young people, according to the JAMA study, PCI said, which shows fatal crashes were 38% more likely for drivers under the age of 21. However, according to the PCI survey, more than 50% of parents with teenagers at home said they have not spoken to their children about the dangers of driving high in the days leading up to April 20.

The PCI survey also found that 20% of Americans say they have driven a car under the influence of marijuana, with 82% of those who have done so admitting they drove either immediately afterward or within two hours of using the drug.

Driving high is illegal, and research shows that it can impair judgment of time and distance, decrease coordination and increase weaving, PCI said. According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, PCI said, collision rates were about 3% higher in three of the states that have approved the sale of marijuana for recreational use: Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

The PCI survey found overall that, no matter what time of year, Americans rank marijuana use at near the bottom of potentially dangerous driving activity. Forty-one percent of Americans believe talking to passengers is more or at least as dangerous as driving high, and 61% said marijuana use while driving is less or as dangerous as talking on a hand-held cellphone.

The PCI survey found that 70% the survey respondents think the government should establish driving impairment standards for marijuana, similar to the blood alcohol level standards set for drinking and driving. Additionally, the same percentage of respondents support a field sobriety test for law enforcement to determine marijuana use.



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