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Which is More Dangerous: Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Marijuana?

A recent study found that driving under the influence of marijuana is not as risky as was once believed.

Those opposed to marijuana legalization argue that allowing people to use the herb will lead to an increase in motor vehicle accidents and fatalities resulting from those accidents. But a recent study – published in the journal Addictioncalled that assumption into question. The Daily Caller reported:

The study reportedly has a more unusual conclusion than previous research because it corrected for perceived methodological flaws of past studies. These methodological inaccuracies mean previous studies overestimated the risk of marijuana use while driving, according to the paper.

“Higher estimates from earlier meta-reviews were found to be largely driven by methodological issue,” said the authors. “In particular the use of data without adjustment for known confounders,” which include gender and age.

Correcting for these factors altered the results, giving a lower-risk profile. “Acute cannabis intoxication is related to a statistically significant risk increase of low to moderate magnitude [odds ratio between 1.2 and 1.4],” the study said.

These figures compare very favorably to alcohol, according a 2015 study by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The study found that those driving with the legal amount of booze in their systems have an almost four-fold increased risk of crashing.

Colorado is often used by marijuana prohibitionists as an example of what legalizing the green plant will lead to. Ironically, motor vehicle fatalities went down in Colorado following the legalization of the flowering herb. Radley Balko with the Washington Post wrote in 2014:

Of course, the continuing drop in roadway fatalities, in Colorado and elsewhere, is due to a variety of factors, such as better-built cars and trucks, improved safety features and better road engineering. These figures in and of themselves only indicate that the roads are getting safer; they don’t suggest that pot had anything to do with it. We’re also only seven months in. Maybe these figures will change. Finally, it’s also possible that if it weren’t for legal pot, the 2014 figures would be even lower. There’s no real way to know that. We can only look at the data available. But you can bet that if fatalities were up this year, prohibition supporters would be blaming it on legal marijuana. (Interestingly, though road fatalities have generally been falling in Colorado for a long time, 2013 actually saw a slight increase from 2012. So fatalities are down the year after legalization, after having gone up the year before.)

Driving under the influence of either alcohol or marijuana – or both – is obviously irresponsible. But there’s no need to embellish the facts to make one appear worse than the other. The truth is bad enough.

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Philip Hodges

Phil has been writing about outrageous news and politics since 2012.

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