Public perception of drugged driving skewed

WASHINGTON — Public perception about drugged driving isn’t keeping pace with the growing number of states legalizing marijuana. AAA Mid-Atlantic believes too many people fail to respect the gravity and potential danger of drugged driving.

“Eighty-five percent of the people we surveyed think it’s less of a problem than drunk driving,” says John B. Townsend II of AAA Mid-Atlantic referring to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Drunk driving is responsible for 20 percent of fatal crashes says Townsend says. Driving under the influence of drugs such as pot, illegal narcotics and prescriptions is attributed to 15 to 20 percent of fatal crashes.

“From a traffic safety standpoint, impaired is impaired. And we’re backed by the science,” Townsend notes.

Townsend says drivers need to be better educated about the dangers of drugged driving.

Exactly how much alcohol it takes to impair someone’s driving is well documented. But as more states legalize marijuana there’s no uniform standard detailing levels of impairment from other cannabis products ingested various ways.

More than half of American drivers aren’t aware of how pot laws apply to drivers in their states according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. AAA says 16 states forbid any level of prohibited drugs to be in a driver’s system, while five have specific limits for marijuana.

In November 2014 District of Columbia voters passed  Initiative 71 to legalize possession of marijuana for personal use although it could eventually be nullified by the U.S. Congress. Maryland decriminalized pot Oct. 2014.

In D.C. and Maryland driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal and is prosecuted as a   dangerous crime.

Drivers can evaluate the potential danger of driving under the influence of specific prescription and over-the-counter drugs by clicking here.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up