When an officer suspects someone is driving under the influence, the driver gets pulled over by the officer. Through a series of evaluations, the officer decides if a sobriety test is necessary. Gauging a driver’s sobriety happens one of two ways. An officer can do a breathalyzer test, in which a small handheld device analyzes the amount of alcohol in the driver’s body, or, an officer can conduct a field sobriety test which includes balance, listening to directions, and more. These tests mostly help officers evaluate how under the influence a driver is with alcohol, but few other substances. Drivers can be under the influence of many different drugs. Currently, there is little technology to support investigating that on the road. With marijuana legalization on the horizon and rapidly spreading through the country, it is important to understand the role driving under the influence of marijuana can have in the safety of driving.
Marijuana is a mind-altering substance that impairs the functions of the prefrontal cortex. Held within the prefrontal cortex is cognition, where cognitive functions live. Cognitive functions include motor functions, like walking and talking, judgment, perception, decision-making, and much more. Under the influence of marijuana, the prefrontal cortex, along with other important areas of the brain, slow down and do not operate normally. Driving a car can be dangerous if someone is under the influence of marijuana.
According to The New York Times, a 2012 study published in Psychopharmacology found that “…only 30 percent of people under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, failed the field test. And its ability to identify a stoned driver seems to depend heavily on whether the driver is accustomed to being stoned.” Numerous review papers have agreed that driving under the influence of marijuana increases the likelihood of an accident by twofold, the article explains.
Some states are taking initiative. California has made it illegal for drivers to be under the influence of marijuana, especially if there are others in the car. Other states may quickly follow suit as legalization spreads.
Connections between legalization and addiction have not yet been solidified. Marijuana is addictive and the more available it becomes, the more people will be exposed and potentially trigger an addictive mind. In the meantime, it is critical to understand the effects of marijuana and be prepared to encounter it on the road.
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