DUI has universally been considered for years to mean driving under the influence of alcohol. Yet driving under the influence of other drugs -- legal and illegal -- can be equally dangerous and deadly.
In an era when marijuana use has become more widespread and accepted, and when the marijuana being used is more potent than from decades gone by, the risk in driving after use has grown. Today's law enforcement is more focused than ever on detecting impaired driving that involves marijuana use.
But just as many people do not believe they will be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, most Americans do not think they'll be caught for driving while high.
A new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey found that nearly 70% of people think it’s unlikely a driver will get caught by police for driving while high on marijuana.
The finding shows an estimated 14.8 million drivers report getting behind the wheel within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days. The impairing effects of marijuana are usually experienced within the first one to four hours after using the drug. And marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash.
“Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgment. Yet, many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson. “It is important for everyone to understand that driving after recently using marijuana can put themselves and others at risk.”
In the AAA Foundation survey, 7% of Americans reported they approved of driving after recently using marijuana -- more than other dangerous behaviors like alcohol-impaired driving (1.6%), drowsy driving (1.7%), and prescription drug-impaired driving (3%). Other survey findings show:
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• Millennials (nearly 14%) are most likely to report driving within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days, followed by Generation Z (10%).
• Men (8%) are more likely than women (5%) to report driving shortly after using marijuana in the past 30 days.
Programs like Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement and the 50-State Drug Evaluation and Classification Program were developed to train law enforcement officers around the country to more effectively recognize drug-impaired driving. There are currently more than 87,000 ARIDE and 8,300 DECP-trained officers patrolling U.S. roads.
Additionally, the number of trained Drug Recognition Experts has increased by 30% since 2013. These officers report that marijuana is the most frequently identified drug category. Since 2015, the number of drivers arrested by DREs for using marijuana increased 20%.
So the chances of being arrested for driving while high on marijuana are growing. And while use of the drug is legal in some states and has been decriminalized in others, marijuana remains illegal in South Carolina. Legal problems for the driver will go further than driving under the influence. The costs alone will be expensive.
The still greater cost could come if a driver is not caught in advance of tragedy. Drivers who get behind the wheel while impaired put themselves and others at risk.