Millions of Americans are getting high, and then getting behind the wheel.
That’s just one of the findings detailed Thursday in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which showed that 12 million American adults said that they had driven under the influence of marijuana in 2018.
The report also showed that more than two million said they had driven under the influence of drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine.
Those findings may underscore the growing prevalence of pot and illicit drugs, but the report also found that driving under the influence of alcohol remains far more common. Eight percent of drivers said they had a drink before driving in 2018, according to the CDC. For comparison, the CDC’s findings break down to 4.7 percent of Americans who drove after using marijuana, while less than one percent said they drove under the influence of illicit drugs.
The CDC said that an estimated 10,511 alcohol-impaired driving deaths occurred in 2018.
The findings on driving under the influence of pot dovetail with a report released by AAA this past summer.
The AAA report found that almost 70 percent of Americans believe it is unlikely for a driver to get busted by the cops while high on marijuana. AAA also offered up what it called another “alarming finding” in its research: roughly 14.8 million drivers have gotten behind the wheel within an hour of using pot in the last 30 days.
Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, sounded the alarm in a statement Wednesday, saying that “[m]arijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgment.” AAA noted in the study’s release that “marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash.”
Yang said that “many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving.” “It is important for everyone to understand that driving after recently using marijuana can put themselves and others at risk,” Yang said.
The CDC issued a similar warning this week.
“Impaired driving is a serious public health concern that needs to be addressed to safeguard the health and safety of all who use the road, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists,” the report said.
“Collaboration among public health, transportation safety, law enforcement, and federal and state officials is needed for the development, evaluation, and further implementation of strategies to prevent alcohol-, drug-, and polysubstance-impaired driving.”