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Posted on 02-12-2017

Is It Safer to Drive Impaired By Marijuana Or Alcohol?

As my avid blog readers are already aware, I am a Baltimore Chiropractor that spends the majority of my clinic time treating patients who have been injured in Baltimore auto accidents. Typically these patients present with a constellation of symptoms inclusive of headaches, neck pain, back pain, radiating arm pain, and radiating leg pain. Recently I have seen an increase in the number of Baltimore auto accident injury patients presenting after having been involved in a motor vehicle collision with a drunk driver. I almost never see injury patients that have been injured as a result of a collision with a patient that is high on marijuana. So it made me wonder whether driving under the influence of one substance was "safer" than the other. As it turns out, research seems to indicate that it is less risky to drive while under the influence of marijuana as compared to alcohol. Now let me make one thing perfectly clear: the safest way to drive is clearly in a non-impaired state and not under the influence of any foreign substance. And I am in no way advocating that drivers choose to drive high or drunk. I am just taking a look at what statistics have shown about this subject because I found myself curious.

A 2011 collaborative study out of the University of Montana and the University of Colorado demonstrated that in states with legal medical marijuana, the number of traffic deaths have been reduced by almost 9 percent as compared to states where marijuana is not legal. This is about the same decrease in injury and death rate that was seen when the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21 several years ago.

Interestingly, there is no clear reason why there has been a decrease in the number of fatal auto accidents as a result of driving under the influence of marijuana. One supposition is that younger people, especially men, tend to choose consumption of marijuana over beer and alcohol in states where it is legal. The second consideration is that people who get high may stay at home and consume the foreign substance, as opposed to those who drink and need to drive to or from bars in order to do so. To be clear, no one knows exactly why this research seemed to indicate that it was "safer" to drive under the influence of marijuana as compared to alcohol, and it will be hard to figure out exactly why that it is the case.

Interestingly, statistics, when adjusted for factors such as age, race, and gender suggest that there's little to no difference between driving stoned or sober when it comes to the risk of having a wreck according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Those who drive high tend to drive slower and focus on obeying traffic laws, whereas those who drive drunk tend to make worse decisions behind the wheel which leads to increased injury and crash risk.

Once again I feel the need to state that I am in no way advocating that anyone intentionally drives under the influence of any foreign substance such as alcohol or marijuana. My fiance and I drive these same roads with our friends and neighbors and we all need to do our part to drive safely to cut down on the risk of fatalities and injuries. It is always safer to call an uber, lyft, or taxi to help you get to where you are going than it is to drive under the influence of marijuana or alcohol.

If you, or someone you know, has been injured as a result of a Baltimore auto accident caused by a driver intoxicated by alcohol or marijuana please contact Mid-Atlantic Spinal Rehab & Chiropractic at (443) 842-5500. We would be happy to help you begin the process of physical recovery.

Dr. Gulitz

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