Now, I’m no saint, but I’m not quite the sinner that I used to be, either. Sure, I’ll enjoy a bit more booze than my 32-year-old body needs on the weekends, but, luckily, I’m smart enough not to get behind the wheel and risk mine or someone else’s life.
While we all know that drinking and driving is one of the dumbest and, potentially, life-threatening decisions a person can make, not many of us understand how smoking pot impairs our judgement when behind the wheel.
Enter Dr. Marilyn Huestis, who, via a 2015 article in TIME magazine, revealed exactly why driving under the influence of pot isn’t any safer than trying to drive while drunk.
While the TIME article mentions that Dr. Huestis admits research is lacking in this area, she’s does point out that hallucinations can happen to a person from the driver’s seat, even saying that they’re an “underappreciated ” threat on the road.
Based off of research, being high has found that being high makes it harder for people to multi-task, meaning that, if driving while stoned, the driver may struggle with things like remembering to put his/her blinker on prior to making a turn, or focusing on the road and paying attention to the bicyclist who’s about to cross in the intersection.
Slower Decision-Making Skills
There’s a reason why people enjoy smoking pot: It often mellows them out and let’s them relax because of the endorphins in the brain. That might be good while sitting comfortably on a couch and snacking on potato chips, but not when cars are flying at, potentially, 50-plus miles per hour. According to Huestis, being high can impair a driver’s executive function and problem-solving ability, meaning a driver who’s high might struggle with the simple task of slamming on the breaks or swerving if called into action to do so.
Driving requires the ability to use peripheryl vision—or focusing on objects to the sides of and above a person’s primary view. While high, though, Dr. Huestis explained to TIME that it’s “harder to see events in your periphery,” which refers to the tunnel-vision that pot has one a user. It goes without saying that, if driving high, noticing anything to the left or right of their own car is a struggle.
As mentioned earlier, being high tends to put your body in a sluggish state, relaxing your mind and muscles. Therefore, if a driver does happen to be stoned, the same effect can occur, leaving the person behind the wheel incapable of even having the ability to maneuver a vehicle, let alone steer and control one.