94°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

Many motorists say they won’t get caught driving high, survey says

With recreational marijuana becoming legal in Nevada and other states in recent years, road safety officials have found an alarming trend.

Almost 70 percent of respondents to a survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said they think they won’t get caught by law enforcement while driving high on marijuana.

And an estimated 14.8 million drivers reported getting behind the wheel within one hour of using the drug in the preceding 30 days, according to AAA.

The survey data are from a sample of 2,582 licensed drivers ages 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days. The survey had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

Despite the belief that driving high is not as dangerous as driving drunk, experts say there’s no difference in marijuana use and other distractions.

“Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgment. Yet many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “It is important for everyone to understand that driving after recently using marijuana can put themselves and others at risk.”

When asked for data on the number of people charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, both the Metropolitan Police Department and the Clark County District Attorney’s office said they don’t have a way to differentiate pot-related DUIs from alcohol-related offenses.

The impairing effects of marijuana are usually experienced within the first one to four hours after using the drug. Marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash, AAA said.

The survey found that 7 percent of Americans reported they approved of driving after recently using marijuana, compared with drunken driving (1.6 percent), drowsy driving (1.7 percent) and prescription drug-impaired driving (3 percent).

Just because a drug is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe to operate a motor vehicle while taking it. AAA recommends all motorists avoid driving while impaired by marijuana or any other substance to avoid arrest and to ensure roads are safe.

“It’s time to face the facts. Any driver who gets behind the wheel high can be arrested and prosecuted,” said Jake Nelson, AAA director of Traffic Safety and Advocacy. “Law enforcement officials are getting more sophisticated in their methods for identifying marijuana-impaired drivers and the consequences are not worth the risk.”

Nevada bridges among best

Nevada is home to the second best bridges in the nation, according to a report.

Though the news is encouraging, this is the first time in the last five years the Silver State didn’t top the list. Nevada missed on a sixth straight title by a fraction of a percentage point, falling behind Texas.

The report revealed that 1.4 percent of Nevada’s nearly 2,000 public bridges are structurally deficient, earning it the runner-up spot next to Texas. That compares with the 7.6 percent national average.

The term “structurally deficient” describes a bridge in need of some rehabilitation or potential replacement. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe or dangerous. Rather, these bridges are due for corrective measures; a vehicle weight restriction may be posted as a result.

The department inspects all bridges statewide, including city and county-maintained structures, every two years, regardless of condition. However, bridges with extensive deterioration are inspected more often.

The department dedicated about $12 million toward bridge preservation during fiscal years 2017-18. Nearly 481 state-owned bridges, or about one-quarter of the total, are over 50 years old or the age when rehabilitation is typically needed to maintain fair condition.

Send questions and comments to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
HOV lane enforcement starts Thursday in Las Vegas

The free ride is over for Las Vegas motorists enjoying the new high occupancy vehicle lanes on Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 95 illegally, as heavy saturation efforts begins Thursday.