Tuesday, June 9, 2015

70% of cannabis users have driven while still under the influence of the drug

Scimex: A National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) internet poll of over 4,600 Australians has revealed that of those who have recently used cannabis, almost 70% have driven while still under the influence of the drug. With more than 2,200 respondents having used cannabis within the past 12 months, 16% indicated they have driven on a daily basis, within five hours of using. A further 25% have driven weekly or monthly, with some commenting they feel cannabis makes them slower and better drivers.

Dr Peter Gates, Senior Researcher at NCPIC says these attitudes are not uncommon, but do directly contradict a wealth of scientific research, "While many stoned drivers think cannabis makes them slower and more careful, it's important to remember it's not just speed that kills. We know cannabis use compromises reaction time, decision-making, time and distance perception, short-term memory, hand-eye coordination, and concentration while driving. This can only mean your basic driving skills are dramatically diminished when using cannabis – even if you're sitting under the speed limit."
While most Aussie drivers are aware of the consequences of drink-driving, it seems the vast majority of cannabis users remain ignorant or sceptical of the considerable dangers of driving while high. Driving under the influence of cannabis increases the risk of motor vehicle crashes by up to 300 percent, with the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 reporting an average of 7% of deaths on Australian roads involve drivers under the influence of drugs.
In response to these concerning figures, random roadside drug testing has been on the rise in recent years, with more than 100,000 tests administered across the country in the last 12 months alone. Despite this, NCPIC's survey indicated people who drive under the influence of cannabis in particular, are not aware of the rising likelihood of being tested, with a quarter of them believing it very unlikely they'll be tested.
"The message here is two-fold," says Dr Gates. 'Firstly, drivers who have used drugs like cannabis need to realise that despite their belief that stoned and slow driving equates to safe driving, they are increasing the risks to their own safety and to that of others. Secondly, if the risk of crashing doesn't act as a big enough deterrent to them, losing their license should. The growing focus on drug driving offences by state and territory police means being caught is much more likely – with hefty fines on the cards, as well as the loss of licence."
"These numbers should act as a wake-up call to all Australians on the road. If you are considering driving after ANY cannabis use, you need to be aware that there are very real consequences for your actions."
The National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre  (based at the University of New South Wales) has just launched its annual 'How dope is your driving?' promotion, focused on addressing some of the myths that are commonly associated with being stoned behind the wheel. The promotion challenges drivers with their interactive online game to stay on the road despite minimal coordination, blurred vision and reduced reaction time. For more information about cannabis and driving or to play the game, visit http://drive.ncpic.org.au/
Individuals who currently have concerns or problems related to their cannabis use can access the free National Cannabis Information and Helpline on 1800 30 40 50.