Washington — Results of a new poll highlight a gap between awareness that marijuana can cause impaired driving and the belief that its use is contributing to the rising number of fatal vehicle crashes in the United States.
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America commissioned a Harris Poll online survey of 2,000 adults. Results show that although 91 percent of respondents believe driving while under the influence of marijuana is dangerous, and 87 percent say people who drive while high are a hazard, only 40 percent believe driving under the influence of marijuana is adding to the U.S. vehicle crash totals.
Preliminary data from the National Safety Council estimates that vehicle crash deaths in 2016 will be 14 percent higher than in 2014, and 6 percent higher than in 2015 – the highest two-year increase in 53 years.
“Driving under the influence of marijuana is extremely dangerous,” Robert Gordon, senior vice president at PCI, said in a press release. “In fact, driving under the influence of marijuana should be viewed with the same risks as drunk or distracted driving. When you’re high, it can impair your judgment, motor coordination and reaction time. We need more research, public awareness and better public policy to reduce the dangers of marijuana-impaired driving and to make our roads less dangerous.”
Eighteen states have laws prohibiting driving with marijuana present in the bloodstream. Gordon said that with today’s younger generation growing up with more liberal views of marijuana use, it is important for parents to discuss with their teens the dangers of driving while high.
The poll shows that only 31 percent of parents have talked with their kids about the hazards of driving while high. In contrast, 67 percent of parents have discussed seat belt use, 60 percent have addressed texting while driving, 54 percent have reviewed speeding and 50 percent have explained the dangers of talking on cellphones while driving.
As of September, 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form, with seven states and D.C. legalizing it for recreational use.