As the use of marijuana becomes more and more common in the United States, more people are driving while high. Not only is this illegal, but it can also increase your risk of being in a traffic accident. Although more research needs to be done on precisely how marijuana affects driving ability, the studies that have been conducted agree that using marijuana does impair you for a period of time.
This may come as no surprise to some users, but there is a persistent myth that driving while high is not nearly as dangerous as driving drunk. That may be true, but there is strong evidence that driving while high is dangerous. It can also get you charged with DUI.
For example, according to the Insurance Information Institute, one review of marijuana studies found that driving under the influence of marijuana makes a driver 1.65 times as likely to be found culpable in a car accident.
Most studies agree that using marijuana impairs coordination, attention, cognitive flexibility, reaction time, memory and associative learning. This impairment is bound to result in some people being in more accidents.
And, there is strong evidence that the greater the level of intoxication, the greater the impairment in driving ability. Moreover, drinking alcohol while using marijuana makes the situation worse.
Indeed, there is at least one study that suggests that chronic users of marijuana may suffer from impaired driving skills even when they are not high. The study, based on driver simulations, found that chronic users sped more frequently, drove through more red lights and struck more pedestrians in the simulator than non-users, even though they had not used any marijuana for at least 12 hours before the study.
There are weaknesses in the research, to be sure. For example, some studies involving fatal crashes appear to consider drivers to be impaired if they test positive for any detectable amount of THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana. However, the evidence is strong that THC persists in bodily systems long after the intoxication period is over. Therefore, the mere presence of THC does not correspond directly with impairment.
Nevertheless, you can be charged and even convicted of DUI in Tennessee if you have any detectible amount of THC or marijuana metabolites in your system. This could result in a DUI charge even though you were not actually impaired at the time you were driving.
Don’t fall for the myth that it’s safe to drive while high on marijuana. It is potentially quite dangerous and violates impaired driving laws. If you have been arrested for drugged driving, contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your defense options.