Ostensibly, no. Driving under the influence of any intoxicant will not make you a better driver. You’re more prone to accidents, and of course, are liable for any accidents when intoxicated. However, studies have shown that traffic fatalities have significantly reduced, in places where marijuana is legal recreationally. How is this possible, if marijuana doesn’t make you a better driver? In this article, we will take a look at some of the links between decreased fatalities, and marijuana consumption.
How Does Marijuana Affect Driving?
Compared to alcohol, those intoxicated on marijuana are far less aggressive, drive slower, and follow farther behind vehicles. So, one may technically argue that marijuana is far safer than alcohol – when it comes to driving. Though, this doesn’t mean you’re a better driver. Marijuana slows your reaction time, and you are still prone to mistakes – but it also makes you particularly cautious, which allows sober drivers to compensate for your errors.
Drivers impaired by marijuana are more likely to weave in their own lane – but not into oncoming traffic, or passing lanes, than their sober counterparts. Those on Alcohol are likely to weave into all three.
While marijuana reduces your cognitive ability, that reduction leads to only a modest impairment in skill. You aren’t likely to become more aggressive, or make major mistakes, though your over cautiousness may cause problems. People with alcohol in their system are more likely to get into accidents, even fatal ones. People with both marijuana and alcohol in their system are much more likely to participate in a deadly crash.
How Does Legalisation Lead to Decreased Fatalities?
Medical marijuana legalization lead to a decrease in accidents, similar to raising the drinking age to 21 did. This doesn’t mean there are more intoxicated drivers on the streets. In fact – the opposite. Marijuana legalization has led to the decreased consumption and sale of alcohol, which in turn has led to less alcohol-impaired drivers on the roads. Furthermore, alcohol has the effect of making you less inhibited – while marijuana, on the other hand, may increase caution, not just on the road, but before you even decide to drive.
That is – people who are generally responsible in the first place, will not become intoxicated to the point where they are willing to or don’t care about, breaking the law.
Some would argue that aggressive drivers, or those who suffer road rage and stress when driving, may even benefit from smoking before driving, even though impaired driving remains illegal. They argue that the potential stress-relieving effects may leave typically angry drivers in a more introspective mindset and that infractions by other drivers bother them less. This level of ‘anger’ frequently felt would distract drivers, and lead to accidents. At the same time – People may be less prone to road rage if the person in front of them wasn’t high.
Another aspect of road safety is medicinal. Those who suffer chronic pain and drive are more likely to get into an accident. When used as a painkiller, marijuana is far less inebriating than it’s opioid counterparts.
In a perfect world there would be no impaired driving, be it on alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs. In the real world – positing the choice of “would you rather” is unfair and dangerous. What we have instead, is a harm reduction strategy – and the math shows those who smoke marijuana when driving are the least likely to cause harm or death – when compared to other intoxicants.