New poll shows Americans consider texting more dangerous than marijuana while driving
A new survey set to be released Tuesday conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America found that while the vast majority of Americans believe driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous, an overwhelming percentage consider texting while behind the wheel even more of a problem.
Ninety-one percent of Americans believe driving while under the influence of marijuana is dangerous and 87 percent believe people who do so pose a danger to others on the road. However, just 40 percent of respondents believe driving while high is a contributing factor to more motor vehicle accidents, according to the survey.
In 2016, as many as 40,000 people died from motor vehicle accidents, a six percent increase from 2015, according to the National Safety Council. A survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2013 to 2014 also found a drastic increase in the number of drivers under the influence of marijuana.
Despite marijuana's effect on a person's motor functions, more Americans think using social media (99 percent) and texting (98 percent) while driving is more dangerous than driving under the influence of marijuana (91 percent). Researchers haven't been able to definitively connect marijuana use with more frequent real-world crashes, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, according to WebMD, side effects of using marijuana include dizziness and slowed reaction time, which can affect how someone reacts to an emergency while driving.
Robert Gordon, senior vice president of policy development and research for PCI told U.S. News more research on the effects of marijuana, including determining the level of marijuana impairment where someone shouldn't drive, is needed.
Of those on the road, drivers aged 18 to 34 are the most likely to drive under the influence of marijuana (6 percent), followed by those aged 55 to 64 (2 percent), according to the survey. More 18 to 34-year-olds drove while high than while while drunk (5 percent).
Gordon told U.S. News increased public awareness and better public policy are needed to address this issue. Gordon also believes parents need to get more involved, as well. Almost 70 percent of parents have not discussed driving under the influence of drugs with their children.
"Public education and awareness at home and school are an important step to educating teens on the dangers of driving under the influence. There have been extensive efforts to reduce crashes and deaths from driving under the influence of alcohol and distracted driving – we need to add driving under the influence of marijuana to the list of dangers on the road," Gordon said.
Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized or decriminalized marijuana in some form — either for medical or recreational use. Of those 29 states and D.C., it is legal for recreational purposes in seven and D.C. In three of those states, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, there has been an increase in the number of vehicle collisions, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute.
"We see strong evidence of an increased crash risk in states that have approved recreational marijuana sales," Matt Moore, the institute's senior vice president told CNBC in June.
However, like much of the other available research, Moore's can't explicitly state if the increase in these collisions is directly caused by drivers who were high.
"States need to be equipped with the latest research, data, laws and programs to help them address this growing problem," Gordon told U.S. News. "Increased training for law enforcement is necessary to help them identify and arrest drugged drivers."
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