A new federal report says drivers are nearly as likely to be high on pot or pills as drunk on alcohol, and it urges states to take steps to better monitor and control drugged driving, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The report, “Drug-Impaired Driving: A Guide for What States Can Do,” cites crash data and surveys chronicling a steady increase in driving under the influence of drugs, as drunken driving rates continue to fall. “I don't think drugged driving has received nearly the attention that drunk driving has received,” said author James Hedlund, a retired executive with the federal National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration who has studied and written extensively on highway safety. The report was issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.
Using the most recent available data from fatal crashes, it said nearly 40 percent of the victims who were tested had drugs in their system, with about one-third testing positive for marijuana. It cautioned that the data has limitations, including no distinction between THC, the marijuana component that causes impairment, and metabolites that remain in a person's system long after the effects of smoking pot have worn off. As debate intensifies about whether marijuana, now legal in some form in nearly half of the states, causes an increased crash risk for drivers, better data is needed, Hedlund said. “The jury is still very much out,” he said. “You certainly could not say unambiguously that marijuana increases crash risk. The only thing you can say with confidence is that in laboratory experiments, it affects a lot of things that are related to driving.”