Is “Driving High” the New Drunk Driving?

driving highR&B singing sensation Frank Ocean rang in the New Year with a citation for marijuana possession after being pulled over for speeding on New Year’s Eve. While Ocean was not arrested, he was citied for marijuana possession after police smelled a “strong odor of pot” coming from Ocean’s vehicle. He was also cited for driving with a suspended license and illegally tinted windows, and may face additional charges after the district attorney reviews his case.

“Driving High” as Dangerous as Drunk Driving

Ocean, like thousands of Americans, mixed illegal substances with driving. Driving while stoned is just as dangerous as driving drunk. As more states legalize marijuana, some safety experts are concerned that “driving while high” is the new driving drunk. According to the Associated Press, the number of drivers killed in traffic accidents with THC in their bloodstream increased by 18% from 2005 to 2011.

As more states legalize marijuana, driving while stoned is also increasing. For example, in 2010, 32 people involved in fatal crashes had ingested marijuana, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation ­– an increase over previous fatalities.

While driving while impaired is illegal in all states, officials are scrambling for a legal means to measure THC levels – similar to a blood alcohol breathalyzer test – that would determine when an individual is “too stoned” to safely drive.

The “Grey Area” Explained

Currently, the majority of convictions for driving while high are based on police observation, followed by a blood test. However, unlike alcohol, marijuana can stay in the bloodstream long after a user’s “high” wears off. Consequently, it can be difficult to measure how “high” someone truly is.

Stoned driving and drunk driving are both extremely dangerous. According to Bob DuPont, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, research shows that driving after smoking marijuana may more than double the risk for a fatal crash.

Driving high or drunk not only puts your life at risk, but also the lives of every other driver and passenger on the road. You can reduce the risk for a fatal accident by taking away a loved one’s keys or offering a safe ride home. Popular culture may glamorize “driving high” in hip-hop songs and music videos, but there’s nothing glamorous about a gruesome death.

Time to Refocus on Sobriety, New Year’s Resolutions

Ocean’s marijuana citation is also a reminder that following the excesses of the holiday season, thousands of Americans need to refocus on their sobriety. Under the pressures of holiday celebrations and family get-togethers, many Americans turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the tension and stress. However, even casual alcohol or marijuana use can lead to serious problems. Using drugs or marijuana as a coping mechanism is a red flag for potential substance abuse problems.

If a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, the New Year is the perfect time to refocus on sobriety and get help. You can help your loved one get sober by connecting them with a drug treatment facility. With the right treatment program, long-term sobriety is possible.

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