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NHTSA conducting study on how pot affects driving

While state and federal officials have conducted seemingly hundreds of studies examining the effects/impact of drunk driving, they have actually done remarkably little research on the effect of driving under the influence of drugs.

In particular, there has been little research on how marijuana can affect a person's driving abilities. This is significant because the states have enacted a veritable patchwork of laws concerning driving under the influence of marijuana.

For instance, some states permit a driver to have a certain amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) -- the psychoactive component of marijuana -- in their system, while other states have "drug per se" laws that forbid drivers to have any trace of illegal drug in their systems.

Not surprisingly, there is now a growing call among lawmakers and safety advocates across the country for greater uniformity in marijuana-impaired driving laws, much like the .08 standard for drunk driving.

Recognizing that more scientific study on so-called "drugged driving" is needed before such dialogues can take place at the state or federal level, researchers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are now conducting a first of its kind study.

The study, conducted as a joint venture between the NHTSA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, will take place at the University of Iowa's National Advanced Driving Simulator sometime this month.

Here, a volunteer pool consisting of 20 people will be provided with varying amounts of marijuana -- grown at a federally funded facility at the University of Mississippi -- and subjected to multiple real-world scenarios in the driving simulator.

For instance, it is highly likely that these volunteers will be monitored to determine the extent to which they can perform such basic tasks as staying in their lanes, making turns, and judging the actions of other drivers. In addition, they will also likely be subjected to prolonged stretches of seemingly boring driving, as well as sudden unexpected occurrences in order to gauge their attention level/reflexes.

It should be noted that the 20 volunteers needed for the study -- who will be issued "certificates of confidentiality" essentially protecting them from law enforcement/prosecution -- will have to meet the following conditions:

  • They must be between the ages of 21 to 55
  • They must be in good health and have good sleep habits
  • They must regularly consume alcohol and marijuana
  • They must submit to extensive medical tests beforehand
  • They must live within 40 miles of the University of Iowa
  • They must be willing to stay overnight at campus medical facilities on 6 of 8 sessions
  • They must be willing to get a ride to and from the test sessions

It should be interesting to see how what the study reveals. Stay tuned for more from our New York traffic law blog ...

A DWI/DUI arrest can have a serious impact on your life in a number of ways and result in various penalties. In fact, many of these penalties are much more serious than the mere license suspension or revocation.

When faced with this scenario, consider contacting an attorney who understands New York's confusing legal system, and who can help you evaluate your options and make the right decisions.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Study looks at driving under the influence of pot," Vanessa Miller, Sept. 9, 2012

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