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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
February 11, 2020

Dangers of Driving While High

JAMA. 2020;323(6):500. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.0073

Nearly 5% of US adults reported driving under the influence of marijuana in 2018, according to a CDC report.

As a growing number of states legalize marijuana, concerns about a potential increase in impaired driving have emerged. As of January 2020, recreational marijuana was legal in 11 states and medical marijuana was legal in 33 states. Using marijuana has been associated with impaired psychomotor and cognitive function while driving and some evidence suggests an increased risk of crashes. A 2014 survey by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that about 3.2% of US residents aged 16 to 25 years reported driving under the influence of marijuana.

The latest CDC data found that 4.7% of US residents aged 16 years or older reported driving under the influence of marijuana. Additionally, 8% reported driving under the influence of alcohol and 0.9% reported driving under the influence of illicit substances other than marijuana. Males were more likely than females to report driving under the influence of marijuana (6.2% vs 3.2%). Marijuana-impaired driving was also more prevalent among younger age groups, with 12.4% of drivers aged 21 through 25 years and 9.2% of those aged 16 through 20 years reporting this behavior.

“Impaired driving is a serious public health concern that needs to be addressed to safeguard the health and safety of all who use the road, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists,” the report’s authors wrote. They suggested that public health officials and state and federal agencies collaborate to develop targeted strategies to curb impaired driving. They also suggested that standardized testing for alcohol and drugs among impaired drivers and those involved in fatal crashes could provide more information about the effects of impaired driving and guide prevention.