Don’t Think You’ll Get Arrested Driving High?
AAA survey reveals marijuana driving myths.
Video B-roll (including officers evaluating suspected marijuana-impaired driver)
June 21, 2019 – With marijuana use legal for recreational use in a near-by state, Colorado, and consumption rising in the region, AAA South Dakota and the South Dakota Highway Patrol are warning of the dangerous impact marijuana poses for driving safety.
Public Misperceptions Revealed
A new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey reveals that nearly 70 percent of Americans think it’s unlikely a driver will get caught by police for driving while high on marijuana. An estimated 14.8 million Americans report driving within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days.
The most 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.2
“Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair drivers’ judgement, putting themselves and others at great risk. Yet, many drivers don’t consider it as unacceptable as behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving,” said Marilyn Buskohl, AAA South Dakota’s public and government affairs manager. “Everyone should understand that driving after recently using marijuana can be impairing and lead to tragedy.”
In the AAA Foundation survey, 7 percent of Americans reported they approved of driving after recently using marijuana - more than other dangerous behaviors like alcohol-impaired driving (1.6 percent), drowsy driving (1.7 percent), and prescription drug-impaired driving (3 percent). Other survey findings show that:
- Millennials (nearly 14 percent) are most likely to report driving within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days, followed by Generation Z (10 percent).
- Men (8 percent) are more likely than women (5 percent) to report driving shortly after using marijuana in the past 30 days.
Law Enforcement and Justice System Gears Up
Programs like Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program were developed to train law enforcement officers around the country to more effectively recognize drug-impaired driving. Law enforcement officers across South Dakota are receiving training to prepare for expected increases in drivers under-the-influence of marijuana – and often alcohol and other drugs as well – that may ignore warnings and hit the roads.
“The fact is, any driver who gets behind the wheel high can be arrested and prosecuted,” said Buskohl. “Law enforcement officials are getting more sophisticated in their methods for identifying marijuana-impaired drivers, and the consequences are not worth the risk.”
Arrests for marijuana-impaired driving have increased 20% across the nation since 2015, and this trend is reflected in South Dakota.
“Marijuana is impairing. It is not safer than alcohol or any other impairing substance when behind the wheel of a car,” said Sgt. Isaac Kurtz, Drug Evaluation and Classification Program Coordinator with the South Dakota Highway Patrol. “Driving high is dangerous and deadly. . This is an ever-increasing threat to the safety of our roadways. We are continually training more officers to detect and remove drug impaired drivers from South Dakota roadways.”
In 2016, DREs from across South Dakota conducted drug impairment evaluations and concluded 98 of their subjects were impaired on cannabis. In 2017, this number was 96 evaluations where cannabis was the impairing substance. In 2018, these numbers saw a significant increase, with 119 subjects determined to be under the influence of marijuana.
South Dakota’s ARIDE-trained officers now total about 450, part of more than 87,000 ARIDE-trained officers patrolling U.S. roads. Additionally, the number of trained DREs in South Dakota is now 65. In 2013, there were 14,555 DREs nationwide. That number is now 21,460 nationwide. These officers report that marijuana is the most frequently identified drug category. South Dakota DREs conducted 198 evaluations in 2018.
AAA South Dakota has actively supported law enforcement efforts to combat drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, through efforts such as sponsorship of ARIDE training, providing materials and outfitting for DREs, and donation of DAX video evidence collection devices to aid in roadside drug impairment evaluations.
The new survey results are part of the AAA Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to traffic safety. The survey data are from a sample of 2,582 licensed drivers ages 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days. The AAA Foundation issued its first Traffic Safety Culture Index in 2008, and the latest report is online at www.AAAFoundation.org.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded, 501(c) (3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.