Marijuana Affects Perception Of The Driver

April 14, 2009

Marijuana smokers are more likely to get involved in automobile crashes than people who do not drive under the influence of cannabis, report scientists from Canada.

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a psychoactive drug, the mind-altering substance that is often found in the urine or blood of drivers after an accident. It establishes that people's driving skills are impaired within the first hour after the body's exposure to pot.

The investigators from the University of Montreal based their conclusions on the study of 83 men, with the ages between 17 and 49 years, who were asked about their driving history and then followed in driving simulators. Senior author of the study, Jacques Bergeron, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Montreal, explained that they have chosen male participants for the study because they more often engage in dangerous driving and driving under the influence of marijuana. We have noticed that dangerous driving behaviors are interrelated, Bergeron said. People who scored high on impulsivity or sensation-seeking scales demonstrated an increased risk of driving under the influence of cannabis, he added.

According to the results, 35 per cent of the 83 participants had been involved in one or more car accidents which resultied in material damage in the previous three years. The experts also said that approximately 30 per cent of them admitted to using pot and 80 per cent of those acknowledged that they have been driving under the influence of marijuana at least once in the past year. Young men with impulsive character and who enjoy thrills and sharp sensations, are more likely to get behind the wheel while high on marijuana. Men who drove under the influence of cannabis were also more likely to show risky and dangerous driving behaviors tending to get into more crashes.

The findings indicate that the use of marijuana, even in low doses, significantly brings up the risk of fatal car crashes. Traces of marijuana are most often found in the urine or blood of drivers after an accident, which is an indication of risky road behavior and pot smoking. It is a serious cause for concern since marijuana is considered to be the 3rd most popular used substance that is being associated with car crashes, after alcohol and tobacco use.

To prevent sensation-seekers from driving under the influence of cannabis, or other dangerous behaviors, Bergeron and his colleague, researcher Isabelle Richer, a doctoral candidate in the psychology department, suggest that authorities should create alarming and unconventional intervention messages that command attention. "On-road risky behaviors tend to be inter-correlated, so interventions should focus on a broad range of dangerous behaviors," Richer said. The scientists feel that there is an urgent need to educate men and warn them about all the dangers that might result from driving under the influence of marijuana. "Our study found that men with self-reported DUIC (driving under the influence of cannabis) tend to be associated with an increased risk of being involved in a car accident," concluded Isabelle Richer.

The study is the first to look at the association between driving under the influence of marijuana and a wide range of dangerous driving behaviors. It was published recently in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.

Tags: Addictions

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