How does marijuana impact you when behind the wheel?

Marijuana impact on driving

CARBONDALE, Il. (KFVS) - A new study by AAA shows an increase of marijuana related crashes in Washington state after the drug became legal there.

While it’s too early to obtain those statistics for Illinois, doctors and law enforcement say driving while high impacts people.

“They’re putting themselves and they’re putting everybody else at risk too,” said Sergeant Doug Wilson with the Carbondale Police Department.

He said just because recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois does not mean it’s legal to drive while under the influence of the drug.

“A lot of times they think I’m fine. I feel okay. I’m not drunk. I’m not high. I’m not buzzed. When in reality they’ve lost the ability to make that determination as to what level of sobriety they’re at,” he said.

One main impact of the drug, it slows down your reflexes.

“And how much the marijuana slows their reflexes is directly related to the level of marijuana that the person has in their blood,” said Dr. Jeff Ripperda with Shawnee Health Care.

Depending on that level, Dr. Ripperda said it makes people more accident prone not just behind the wheel but at work or even when walking.

“It may not sound like much of a big deal but even a delay in our reflexes of about 200ths of a second which is not very long at all obviously actually increases your risks of accidents,” he said. “If I’m walking somewhere and I trip, I have a reflex where I’m gonna put out my hands to try to stop myself from falling or I’m gonna throw my leg forward to try to catch myself. That 200ths of a second difference might be the difference between whether I catch myself and don’t fall or I don’t catch myself and I fall and I break my arm.”

Dr. Ripperda also said it slows people’s ability to think and process. Also, everyone’s body reacts to the drug differently depending on several factors such as previous drug use, the amount of THC in the drug, and tolerance.

“You go out and you drive, and you think that you’re okay to drive when really there’s no reason that you should be behind the wheel of a car," said Wilson.

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