Cannabis Use and Driving Impairment

"There is considerable evidence from laboratory studies that cannabis (marijuana) impairs reaction time, attention, tracking, hand-eye coordination, and concentration, although not all of these impairments were equally detected by all studies (Couper & Logan, 2004a; Heishman, Stitzer, & Yingling, 1989; Gieringer, 1988; Moskowitz, 1985). In reviewing the literature on marijuana, Smiley (1998) concluded that marijuana impairs performance in divided attention tasks (i.e., a poorer performance on subsidiary tasks). Jones et al. (2003) adds that Smiley’s finding is relevant to the multitasking essence of driving, in particular by making marijuana impaired drivers perhaps less able to handle unexpected events. Interestingly, there is also evidence showing that, unlike alcohol, marijuana enhances rather than mitigates the individual’s perception of impairment (Lamers & Ramaekers, 1999; Robbe & O'Hanlon, 1993; Perez-Reyes, Hicks, Bumberry, Jeffcoat, & Cook, 1988). Robbe and O'Hanlon (1993) reported that in laboratory conditions, drivers under the influence of marijuana were aware of their impairment, which led them to decrease speed, avoid passing other vehicles, and reduce other risk-taking behaviors. Such was not the case with alcohol; for the authors reported that alcohol-impaired drivers were generally not aware of impairment, and therefore did not adjust their driving accordingly."


Lacey, John H.; Kelley-Baker, Tara; Furr-Holden, Debra; Voas, Robert B.; Romano, Eduardo; Ramirez, Anthony; Brainard, Katharine; Moore, Christine; Torres, Pedro; and Berning, Amy , "2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers," Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (Calverton, MD: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, December 2009), p. 9.