WASHINGTON — Drugged driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.
For that reason today, on April 20, which in some places is know as 420 Day, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reminds all to take the high road and to never drive under the influence of cannabis or any other mind-altering substance.
“Driving under the influence of any drug, including cannabis and alcohol, all too often has tragic consequences. Combining cannabis and alcohol is even more dangerous than using either substance alone, leading to greater impairment and a greater risk of getting into a crash,” said MADD National President Helen Witty. “My 16-year-old daughter, Helen Marie, was rollerblading on a bike path near our home when a marijuana- and alcohol-impaired teen driver ran off the road and struck her. Helen Marie died an instant, violent death, and my life changed forever.”
MADD is urging partiers to plan ahead for a safe ride home today, an unofficial cannabis holiday. On Thursday, April 18, MADD joined law enforcement and traffic safety partners in Colorado — one of the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana — to highlight the dangers of driving while impaired.
According to Canadian researchers who studied 25 years of data on fatal crashes in the U.S., the risk of being in a fatal crash is 12 percent higher from 4:20 p.m. to midnight on April 20, compared to the same time one week earlier. For drivers younger than 21, the risk is 38 percent higher. The findings were published a year ago in a research letter in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
“Just because you drive somewhere, doesn’t mean you have to drive home,” Witty said. “With so many options available today, there is never any excuse to drive drunk or high. Please, designate a non-drinking, non-consuming driver, use public transportation, call a taxi or use a ride share app like Uber.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, affects areas of the brain that control your body’s movements, balance, coordination, memory and judgment. Those skills are needed to drive safely.
“Marijuana does not make you a better driver,” Witty said. “In fact, it can slow reaction time and interfere with your ability to make decisions. It can distort perception and make it harder to solve problems. The dangers become even greater when you combine marijuana with alcohol, which is still the deadliest threat on our roads.”
Driving while high is impaired driving — and can result in a DUI. In fact, the No. 1 reason police in Colorado stop cannabis-impaired drivers is due to speeding, according to the Colorado State Patrol.
“Drugged driving is a danger to everyone on the road,” Witty said. “As more states legalize cannabis, we need to work even harder to make sure we all make it home safe. It’s up to all of us.”