Studies have long since proven that the risks of drinking and driving abound. Recently, new tests and investigations have been made into the potential after effects of driving while impaired by drugs.
In February of 2012, the British Medical Journal released a new report with a not so new conclusion: The consumption of cannabis (cannabinoids or marijuana) can dramatically increase the risk of driver impairment, and hence, motor vehicle collisions. However, the results of the meticulous study need to be looked at with a discerning eye, as many of the statistics and information cited in the report’s conclusions do not account for nearly as much as they would like readers to believe. As clarified in official documents, the study’s main objective was to determine whether or not the acute consumption of cannabis could be attributed to a driver’s impairment and increased risk of car accident. The design of the study was to conduct a “systematic review of observational studies, with meta-analysis” in order to determine the likelihood of car collisions when drivers are operating vehicles under the influence of drugs.
Nine different studies were selected to be included in the review, out of more than 2,975 that were available. Seven of the nine yielded a positive relationship between cannabis use and increased risk of crashing, leading to the report’s overall validity in drawing a correlation between drug impairment and the potential for motor vehicle collision. Statistics issued by the study reported that that a significant increase could be found in the odds of crashing after using drugs compared to the instance of unimpaired crashes. The pooled risk for crashes related to drug impairment was 1.92, a number that reflects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of approximately .06% to .07%. Any increase in potential risk to a driver on the road is cause for concern; however, the results of this study did little more than reflect the potential for harm. Nothing was noted about the ways in which these numbers matched up to other levels of impairment.
Like many others, the study conducted by the British Medical Journal was not free of its own flaws. In fact, it had more than one. Impaired drivers operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol are actually more at risk of causing crashing than those caused by drug use and impairment. The difference is .08% vs. an estimated .06% or .07% (alcohol vs. drugs). As is displayed by the numbers, alcohol consumption is verifiably more responsible for impaired driving and traffic collisions than its cannabis counterpart. In addition to representing statistics in an arguably skewed light, the numbers reported did not take into account the THC level concentration, time elapsed since ingestion, or user experience. While the analytical investigation was successful in proving the fact that marijuana use is indeed responsible for exacerbating the risk of auto collisions it essentially did little else. In fact, those reviewing the data are provided with nothing more than what is likely already common knowledge: Cannabis use can lead to a heightened potential for driver collision.
When conducting any study, it is important to pay attention to every potential aspect that could be involved, including contributing factors, outside comparisons, and the like. Because the British Medical Journal’s review failed to do this, the results yielded in the study are somewhat slanted. Yes, marijuana smokers do face the possibility of a car collision when attempts are made to operate a vehicle while under the influence. However, what the study failed to mention is the fact that these individuals are actually at less risk than alcohol impaired drivers. In fact, they are often even less at risk than drivers who are caught texting and driving (an offense that is 23x more risky).