In most of the driving-related fatalities in the United States, alcohol happens to be the main cause, though other drugs like marijuana also play an important role. However, it is difficult to directly link marijuana use with one’s driving abilities as the drug is often used in combination with alcohol. In addition, the driver’s age and gender may heighten the risk of increased crashes among marijuana users. A recent research now links pot users’ self-proclaimed holiday on April 20 or “4/20” to an increase in fatal car crashes in the country. As per the research, the day witnesses a 12 percent increase in fatal traffic incidents.
“4/20” is associated with mass celebration and consumption of cannabis at 4:20 p.m. at public places. According to Dr. John Staples, lead author and clinical assistant professor of medicine and scientist at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences, while the study could not assess whether marijuana was directly responsible for the surge in fatal crashes on that day, it does establish that driving skills of some people are impaired after cannabis use, which interferes with their decision-making and motor skills, leading to fatal vehicle crashes.
Marijuana use linked to spike in traffic fatalities
For the research, Staples along with Dr. Donald Redelmeier from the University of Toronto examined 25 years of data from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). To judge the effect of April 20 on the number of fatal crashes on the road, the researchers compared the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes after 4:20 p.m. on that day each year to the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes during the same time intervals on control days a week earlier and a week later.
The researchers observed a spike in traffic fatalities after 4:20 p.m. on April 20 compared to a week before or after that day. As compared to control days, the researchers also observed a 38 percent increase in fatal vehicle crashes among drivers younger than 21 years. The data also showed Maine drivers to be four times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash after 4:20 p.m..
Staples hopes that legalization of recreational pot in more states does not lead to more people driving while high. As per him, given that more Americans now live in states that have legalized recreational marijuana and with Canada set to legalize it in July 2018, almost 100 million people in North America will live at a place where it is legal to consume cannabis. According to him, the study should prompt the “4/20” event organizers to consider ways to make sure that the event participants and the passengers are able to reach home safely through shared rides or designated sober drivers.
While the research proves that being high behind the wheel can be dangerous, it suffers from two limitations. Firstly, the research makes it difficult to categorize and compare state level risks in terms of legalization as it does not consider whether the April 20 risk to a driver changes if they are in a state that has legalized cannabis.
Secondly, the research does not consider whether pot played a direct role in the fatal crashes as a police drug report combining lab tests and the officer’s impression was only included for about a third of the 1,369 drivers involved in deadly crashes on that fateful day. Additionally, given that pot remains in the body long after its use, a positive lab test does not imply that a person was impaired.
Recovery from marijuana addiction
Marijuana’s long-term use and abuse can have disastrous effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. The sense of euphoria from even one-time use is enough to push a person into trying the substance again, gradually leading toward addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), marijuana users are 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than those who drive safe. Due to its addictive nature and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, is advisable to seek treatment at certified marijuana treatment centers where experts can provide around-the-clock care.
Sovereign Health of El Paso, Texas, is a leading addiction and behavioral treatment center that offers patients highly personalized and cutting-edge treatment for marijuana addiction by combining detox with various behavioral therapies for long-lasting recovery. To know more about our programs, call our 24/7 helpline number and speak to an admission specialist. For instant help, you can chat online with a representative now.
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