Let’s be clear: You should not smoke pot and drive. The likelihood you’ll cause an accident increases substantially, you run the risk of real jail time, and honestly, the paranoia induced by busy traffic and passing cops isn’t exactly ideal for a righteous buzz.
That said, if you absolutely insist on doing drugs while on the road, ganja is apparently your best choice. According to a study by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, weed is the drug that turns up the least often in tests of drivers involved in fatal collisions.
The big dog, of course, is booze, seen in 57 percent of deadly crashes. A mix of alcohol and drugs were found in 20 percent of cases, complicating the picture for specific drugs as a causal factor in collisions. In other words, it’s impossible to tell in some cases whether the alcohol or the drugs played a bigger role.
But when looking at specific drugs, it’s clear marijuana is not a major cause of car crashes. In fact, it’s beat by every major category of drugs tested. That includes depressants, stimulants and narcotics.
Depressants include barbiturates and benzodiazepines such as Valium, among other drugs. Popular stimulants include cocaine and methamphetamine. The narcotics category covers opioids such as Oxycontin and morphine.
According to a summary of the study:
“The estimated odds ratios of fatal crash involvement associated with specific drug categories were 1.83 for marijuana, 3.03 for narcotics, 3.57 for stimulants, and 4.83 for depressants.”
Although booze always has been and probably always will be the biggest contributor to fatal collisions, the study suggests prescription meds are a particularly dangerous threat.
“While alcohol-impaired driving remains the greatest threat to traffic safety, these finding about drugged driving are particularly salient in light of the increases in the availability of prescription stimulants and opioids over the past decade,” wrote Guohua Li, professor of epidemiology at Columbia.
This isn’t the first study to suggest the relative safety of driving on pot, though the research is sparse.
A report released this earlier this year found that states that legalize medical marijuana actually experience a drop in traffic deaths that could be linked directly to the policy change. On average, fatalities dropped 8 to 11 percent within a year after MMJ took effect and 10 to 13 percent with four years.
Researchers theorized the drop could be due to drinkers turning to weed instead, and either staying at home or driving with less impairment.
“The uncomfortable conclusion is that you’d rather have young adults smoking marijuana instead of drinking alcohol,” Daniel Rees, a University of Colorado economist and an author of the study, told The Boston Globe in August. “Even I’m uncomfortable with it. But that’s where the logic takes us.”