By / February 7, 2024

Car Accident Risk Does Not Increase With Cannabis Use

From a recent study conducted on a group of drivers visiting emergency departments, it appears that cannabis use does not increase the risk of being involved in a car accident. Interestingly, individuals who reported consuming a large amount of cannabis even had a lower chance of being in an accident. On the other hand, alcohol consumption – whether alone or in combination with cannabis – was consistently linked to a higher risk of collisions.

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Key Car Accident Findings of the Study

The study, carried out among drivers who ended up in emergency departments in three different cities: Denver, Portland, and Sacramento, provided intriguing insights into the impact of cannabis use on road safety. Researchers, aiming to understand the effect of cannabis on road accidents, thoroughly analyzed the data concerning the consumption of psychoactive substances by the study participants.

One of the most surprising discoveries was that the mere use of cannabis was not directly linked to a higher risk of involvement in a car accident. This observation contradicts the widely held belief that driving under the influence of cannabis significantly increases the risk of collisions. Researchers noted that individuals who reported high consumption of cannabis were paradoxically less likely to be involved in road accidents. Previous studies suggested that people under the influence of cannabis tend to drive slower and maintain a larger distance from the preceding vehicles. Could this be the reason for the decreased likelihood of accidents?

The Contrast with Alcohol Consumption

In contrast to the findings on cannabis, alcohol consumption – regardless of whether it was combined with cannabis use or consumed alone – clearly increased the risk of an accident. This discovery highlights a significant difference in the impact of both substances on the motor skills and perception of drivers. Alcohol, as a depressant, significantly impairs reaction time, coordination, and the ability to assess situations on the road, which can contribute to an increased risk of accidents.

As part of the study, in addition to standard interviews with participants, detailed blood tests were conducted to measure levels of THC – the main psychoactive component of cannabis – and to test for the presence of alcohol. This approach allowed researchers to not only analyze self-reported cannabis and alcohol use but also to objectively assess the level of these substances in the body at the time of the accident.

Analysis of Results

The analysis of the study’s findings sheds new light on how we perceive the impact of cannabis on driving abilities and on the methods for assessing this impact. A key discovery here is challenging the reliability of using THC levels in the body as a direct indicator of accident risk. Traditionally, the presence of THC was considered the main criterion for assessing the ability to drive safely. However, the study’s results indicate that THC levels do not correlate directly with impaired motor functions, which is crucial for safe driving.

Based on these findings, researchers suggest shifting the focus from measuring THC levels to assessing the actual impairment of a driver’s ability to drive safely. This means that instead of relying solely on blood or saliva tests to determine if a driver is under the influence of cannabis, more complex assessment methods should be introduced that could more accurately reflect the state of intoxication.


The study, which casts new light on the discussion about the impact of cannabis on car accidents, also addresses key legal and scientific issues related to setting legal THC limits in drivers’ bodies. On one hand, the study’s findings indicate the need to rethink current methods of assessing actual intoxication, which, as the authors emphasize, are far from perfect. On the other hand, the problem of setting THC limits is complex from both a scientific and legal perspective, posing a challenge for the creation of effective legal regulations.

The study’s authors point out potential limitations of their work, which could affect the representativeness and interpretation of the results. One such limitation is the possibility that the study included a biased sample of drivers – those who, for various reasons, decided to participate in the study. Such selectivity could introduce some distortions to the final conclusions. Additionally, the self-reported cannabis use by study participants may be inaccurate, which should also be considered when analyzing the results.

The conclusions drawn from the car accident study should be considered in the context of the broader debate on cannabis legalization and its impact on road safety. This discussion is particularly relevant in light of the ongoing legalization of cannabis in many countries and states, raising questions about the effects of such policies on overall safety. Changing the approach to cannabis and driving requires not only further research but also a thoughtful policy that adequately responds to new challenges. It is important that such policies are based on solid scientific evidence and consider the complexity of the issue, including the differences in how cannabis affects individual drivers, and the limitations of current methods of assessing intoxication.

The car accident study underscores the need for a better understanding of the impact of cannabis on driving abilities and the challenges facing lawmakers in creating fair and effective regulations. Ultimately, the pursuit of increased road safety must be based on reliable scientific knowledge and flexibility in adapting laws to rapidly changing social and medical realities.

(Featured image by Samuele Errico Piccarini via Unsplash)

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