Drugs, alcohol, crashes

There has been so much hype over concerns regarding “all the drugged drivers on the road” once marijuana is legalized, and it has been just plain dishonest. Sure, driving impaired is a bad idea regardless of the impairment. But there are many kinds of impairment and many degrees of impairment, and it’s important to know where on the risk scale this lies in order to craft useful public policy.

Driving angry is a terrible impairment, yet we are unlikely to develop a national policy of enforcing a zero-tolerance no-drive rule after getting in an argument.

We know that heavy alcohol use results in some of the highest risks of driving impairment, so it is fitting that we focus efforts on reducing drunk driving and enforcing drunk driving laws. It would be irresponsible to pull resources away from that clear danger toward a much lower risk factor.

And yet, that’s exactly what we’re doing by pushing for zero-tolerance per se laws for cannabis.

This latest study from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs once again points out quite clearly this fact.

Drugs and Alcohol: Their Relative Crash Risk – Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Report by Eduardo Romano, Pedro Torres-Saavedra, Robert B. Voas, John H. Lacey

Results: For both sober and drinking drivers, being positive for a drug was found to increase the risk of being fatally injured. When the drug-positive variable was separated into marijuana and other drugs, only the latter was found to contribute significantly to crash risk. In all cases, the contribution of drugs other than alcohol to crash risk was significantly lower than that produced by alcohol.

Conclusions: Although overall, drugs contribute to crash risk regardless of the presence of alcohol, such a contribution is much lower than that by alcohol. The lower contribution of drugs other than alcohol to crash risk relative to that of alcohol suggests caution in focusing too much on drugged driving, potentially diverting scarce resources from curbing drunk driving. [emphasis added]


In reading the full article (yes, I shelled out the $30 for it – let me know if you have any questions about the article itself so you don’t have to), it was interesting to read the article’s authors’ astonishment at discovering that cannabis had so little effect on its own to crash risk. They pointed out the possibility (of which we’ve known for a long time) of drivers who have used cannabis being more aware and thus cautious.

They also pointed out that the government data from which they drew counted any amount of the drug showing up in tests and therefore likely included many drivers who had not recently consumed cannabis. But that’s perhaps an appropriate population to have in your sample when pointing out the stupidity of a public policy that promotes zero-tolerance per se laws.

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36 Responses to Drugs, alcohol, crashes

  1. claygooding says:

    In a sane world after all reefer madness is scrubbed from people’s minds smoking a joint 30 minutes before driving in rush hour traffic will end road rage as people bebop along and wave at each other with all four fingers instead of one.

  2. Tony Aroma says:

    Too bad actual data never has, and likely never will, have any effect on public policy.

  3. Emma says:

    If you want to read a pay-walled journal article, just email one of the authors and ask for a PDF. Just a short email, “Dear Dr. X, Please could you send me a PDF of your article…”, no need to explain yourself. This works every time, at least for for articles from the past 10 yrs or so.

  4. Servetus says:

    Terror and foreboding sweep the professional prohibitionist community as recreational pot consumption is shown to be free of addictions, car crashes, or lowered IQs. What’s next? Will scientists discover marijuana is actually healthy for children? Stay tuned….

    • Jean Valjean says:

      Yes but don’t forget “testicular cancer” and “birth defects,” not to mention Moobs. (Abduction by aliens is still on the drawing board awaiting Kevin’s big roll out.)

    • * says:

      Melanie Dreher, who is the dean of nursing at Rush Medical Center in Chicago, did a study in Jamaica. It was actually published in the American Journal of Pediatrics in 1994, but now it’s re-circulating because of all the interest in the neuroprotective properties. Basically, she studied women during their entire pregnancy, and then studied the babies about a year after birth. And what she studied was a group of women who did smoke cannabis during pregnancy and those who didn’t. She expected to see a difference in the babies as far as birth weight and neuro tests, but there was no difference whatsoever. The differences that the researchers did notice, that are unexplained and kind of curious are that the babies of the women who had smoked cannabis — and we’re talking about daily use during their pregnancy — socialized more quickly, made eye contact more quickly and were easier to engage.

  5. Trey and Matt could educate Kevin on the probing issue; but i just would like to reiterate something that was mentioned in a previous posting.

    Toxins are flushed from the body; yet, marijuana will stay for prolonged periods. This would tend to indicate to anyone that the component compounds inherent to marijuana ARE NOT TOXINS.

    This should serve to render all of the Reefer Madness advocates silent.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Apparently you’re unaware that the prohibitionist parasites and their sycophants are strict adherents of the Humpty Dumpty school of sophistry. They stand ready to redefine any word which has a tendency to prove them wrong.

      ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

      ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

      ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

      • Duncan20903 says:


        Oh, it’s not true that all toxins are flushed from the body. I’m sure that you’ve heard of lead poisoning, and what about DDT? Perhaps you’re too young to remember the ecological catastrophe caused by DDT. If so, give it a Google. Mercury, arsenic, thallium, silver and gold can also kill you in due time with not fatal or damaging doses consistently taken internally over a period of time.

  6. Common Science says:

    We could call on one person, for a number of reasons to slam the prohibitches for their many spurious claims. Especially so here in the relative crash risk comparisons. As everyone on the couch knows, Irvin Rosenfeld’s successful fight against multiple congenital cartilaginous exostoses is due to the healing properties of smoking 10 or so joints a day – provided him quietly under the shelved FDA’s Compassionate IND program.

    For years (decades!) he has appeared on camera, glad to inhale his medicine in his office, boat or car for the media (maybe not in the few years leading up to Colorado and Washington’s successful legalization efforts). But that’s 11,000 joints later, a portion of which helped enhance the sounds coming from Rosenfeld’s car speakers, to and from work nearly every day for thirty years. Every Andrea, Calvina, and Kevin should have scads of examples by now of the bedlam and carnage that impaired marihuana drivers would be inflicting on unsuspecting citizens everywhere because of this “addict’s” driving record.

  7. darkcycle says:

    But this is their last gasp…the last conceivable health-based argument to deny full, free legalization to all. I mean….the “What about the Children!?” canard lost it’s cache with Sanjay Gupta and little Charlotte Figgey, the Harvard study laid waste the “link” between schizophrenia and cannabis, and the IQ study indicates socio-economic factors are a better explanation than cannabis use for any observed effects. All in just the last few months. Kevvie is going to have to do some quick thinking to come up with new ammunition (or maybe not. Maybe he’ll just continue citing the debunked studies and writing lots of “comments closed” blog entries at Huffpost.).

  8. Crut says:

    OT: http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/duke/140114

    Ugh, I’d really like this strawman to die also. One-hitters are super popular nowadays cause they get us “lifted” but not “stoned”. To say that our goal is ALWAYS to get high is false. JFC, mind your own f-n business already.

  9. Nunavut Tripper says:

    Selwyn should be brave enough to allow comments…maybe he could brace himself with a few shots of rye…..oh shit I forgot….drinkers don’t drink for the effects,just the taste.

    • claygooding says:

      Do you know what you call a person that likes the taste of rye or scotch whiskey??? A drunk! Scotch taste like it is poured through a cardboard funnel and rye tastes like half soured beer,,warmed,,,but then I love the taste of skunk weed,,,,so go figger!!!

  10. DdC says:

    Nothing less than domestic terrorism.

  11. N.T. Greene says:

    Someone didn’t like the talk and spread down votes everywhere.

    Is there a drug policy reddit this guy could annoy instead?

    Is that you, Kev?

    • darkcycle says:

      It’s our “thumbs down troll”. A cowardly nit who shows up pretty much whenever Kevin Sabet’s name is mentioned. Never leaves commentary, just rolls through the comments flinging poo, one thumbs down at a time.

  12. Dano says:

    I read the federal government just gave Colorado a slew of money to help them combat drugged driving! Must be an overtime project to keep the police that aren’t conducting marijuana arrests busy…

    • TrebleBass says:

      if that’s true, it’s probably an attempt by the feds to make sure colorado finds more stoned drivers this year than the year before, and as many as possible. of course, if you put a million cops out there stopping cars trying to find stoned drivers, you’re gonna find a lot of them, and plenty of other types of arrests as well. just so they can say “look at these stats! things in colorado are so bad! legalization is the worst!” let’s hope all the cops stopping cars don’t cause any accidents.

    • strayan says:

      Correction, they gave them money to talk it up, not actually fight it.

      • Duncan20903 says:


        Are you talking about the $400,000 grant from the NHTSA to Colorado to print up posters, brochures, create even more stupid PSAs and teach cops how to spot a green tongue? What in the world makes Emily Wilfong think that posters, brochures, PSAs and the search for green tongues are against Federal law?

        “It’s ironic we’re using federal funding for something that is illegal federally,” Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Emily Wilfong said. “But they (federal officials) do realize this is a traffic safety issue and needs to be addressed.”

  13. War Vet says:

    I would say that training to drive in a congested urban combat environment for some war out in Iraq was made easier by driving well over a thousand times on cannabis (and other stuff). Try driving with total lights off at night and wearing night vision goggles that make everything appear 15yards closer (magnification). I question Cops: “so, did you learn to drive in Afghanistan or Iraq? Oh, I see. License and registration officer.”

    And without the help of the Army, I wouldn’t have ever thought about using three to four cars to carry one pound of weed from point A to point B . . . safety in (convoy) numbers.

    So, officer, you want me to trust your driving skills, yet you were too lazy to ever drive in a war zone. Oh, I see. Let me question your authority some more. Many cops need serious counseling. They are very disillusioned: they think they are not civilians, yet more evidence point out the fact they are than not. I’ve yet to encounter any military personnel have the luxury of sleeping in their own beds in their own homes with their own families at the end of the day . . . must be nice to live the life of Reilly officer. Cops: “We make our job look easy because it is easy.” Start supporting my rights officer and I won’t laugh at you like some preschool dropout.

    Yes, I’m acting a bit angry towards them. I cannot stand it when cops and their families say: “They criticize and judge us so much, but still expect us to help them out when accidents or robbers are involved.” Of course I do cop. I pay for your job with my taxes and you are my employee. What worker isn’t supposed to do what the boss asks of them? If the job is too rough, be glad you didn’t go to war and try your hand at some other job.

    But one day, they’ll be back in the fold and I’ll love them with intense joy like the prodigal son. I’ll be the first to say that cops deserve a second chance. We’re only human after all.

  14. Rick Steeb says:

    Just another set of data proving that keeping the less-inebriating alternative illegal is causing carnage.
    Google: “Medical Marijuana Laws” and “Traffic Fatalities”

  15. DdC says:

    Cannabis Cannabidiol inhibits lung cancer cell invasion
    [FASEB J. 2012] @PubMed @NCBI – National Center

    Profit is the New Mother Of invention.
    Treatment Profits trump Cures and Prevention
    The Profit Prophets Run From The Cure

    David Worrell ‏@DMWorrell RT News
    France says ‘oui’ to marijuana-based medicine

    NeoConflicts of Interest

    A Brief History And Outlook Of Cannabis Extract Medicine
    Carver Johns ‏@CarverJohns

  16. Deep Dish says:


    Video of Mason Tvert’s appearance on Nancy Disgrace last night. Grab some popcorn, because it’s very entertaining. Nancy titled the video “Pot supporter: ‘It’s addictive, but so is sex!’”, obliviously unaware she just destroyed her own argument.

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