As more drivers use cannabis in fatal crashes, new report offers states a safety playbook

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Cannabis use is on the rise in the United States, and more drivers in fatal crashes tested positive for use at the wheel during the pandemic. A new report aims to help states communicate more effectively with motorists about safe driving.

The report, released Tuesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association, Responsibility.org and the National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving, provides guidance on messages that will and will not work, highlighting the need for more effective education and education.

“As legal cannabis use broadens in the US, motorists need to understand the dangers of drunk driving,” Jonathan Adkins, director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said in a statement. “But that message will not be heard if it is outdated, irrelevant or offensive to cannabis consumers. This new report provides a roadmap to help states develop messages that resonate with cannabis users and encourage them not to drive for their own safety and the safety of everyone else on the road.”

Since 2011, 18 states have legalized recreational cannabis, and more states are expected to have legalization by November. In 2019, 18% of people aged 12 and older in the US reported having used cannabis in the past year, up from 11% in 2002.

The report, “Cannabis Consumers and Safe Driving: Responsible Use Messaging,” comes as state security agencies face rapidly evolving challenges, including the legality, prevalence and social norms of the drug’s use.

“There remains a significant discrepancy between people’s views on its use and safe driving,” the safety groups said, noting that some people believe cannabis use actually improves their driving skills, although “research confirms that cannabis directly affects parts of the brain.” responsible for attention, decision-making, coordination and reaction time, all of which are critical to safe driving.”

The report referred to a survey commissioned by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in which 95% of people said driving above the legal limit for blood alcohol (BAC) is very or extremely dangerous, but only 69% said they found it dangerous to drive within an hour of consuming cannabis. And according to the report, the number of road deaths involving the drug has risen during the Covid-19 pandemic:

“Data from trauma centers indicated that 33% of drivers involved in fatal accidents had tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, in their system – a significant increase from 21% before the pandemic. Cannabis was slightly more common than alcohol in traffic fatalities during the pandemic (33% for cannabis versus 29% for alcohol). Multi-substance damage has also increased in recent years, with 25% of drivers in fatal crashes testing positive for more than one harmful substance, compared to 18% before the pandemic.

The report highlights lessons learned from public efforts in Colorado and Washington, the first states to legalize cannabis, and more recent efforts in Connecticut and Wyoming, and makes a series of recommendations on promising practices, such as funding road safety programs from revenues from cannabis sales tax, and how to better address the challenges of communicating with the public.

For example, the report suggests engaging diverse and non-traditional advisors to deliver messengers and to use language that resonates with cannabis consumers “so they hear the message of safe driving rather than tuning it in because it has outdated terminology.” .”

“Deteriorated driving, whether it be alcohol, cannabis, other drugs or a combination of substances, is wreaking havoc on our nation’s roads and we all need to respond quickly and effectively,” said Darrin Grondel, vice president of government relations and Road Safety for Responsibility. .org and director of the National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving.

The alliance’s website includes an interactive, online database that is updated in real-time, making it easy for users to see US cannabis laws and traffic violations.

“The messages, strategies, data and approaches identified in this new report will make that response more effective in positively changing cannabis consumer behavior for the benefit of every American on our nation’s roads,” added Dr. Get to it.

For more information about the report, click here.