Own your ow legal marijuana business
Your guide to making money in the multi-billion dollar marijuana industry
Miscellaneous Statements on Drug Policy
References on Drugs and Driving

Marijuana And Actual Driving Performance

U.S. Department of Transportation,
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(DOT HS 808 078), Final Report, November 1993


The results of the studies corroborate those of previous driving simulator and closed-course tests by indicating that THC in inhaled doses up to 300 g/kg has significant, yet not dramatic, dose-related impairing effects on driving performance (cf. Smiley, 1986). Standard deviation of lateral position in the road-tracking test was the most sensitive measure for revealing THC's adverse effects. This is because road-tracking is primarily controlled by an automatic information processing system which operates outside of conscious control. The process is relatively impervious to environmental changes but highly vulnerable to internal factors that retard the flow of information through the system. THC and many other drugs are among these factors. When they interfere with the process that restricts road-tracking error, there is little the afflicted individual can do by way of compensation to restore the situation. Car-following and, to a greater extent, city driving performance depend more on controlled information processing and are therefore more accessible for compensatory mechanisms that reduce the decrements or abolish them entirely.

THC's effects on road-tracking after doses up to 300 g/kg never exceeded alcohol's at bacs of 0.08 g%; and, were in no way unusual compared to many medicinal drugs' (Robbe, 1994; Robbe and O'Hanlon, 1995; O'Hanlon et al., 1995). Yet, THC's effects differ qualitatively from many other drugs, especially alcohol. Evidence from the present and previous studies strongly suggests that alcohol encourages risky driving whereas THC encourages greater caution, at least in experiments. Another way THC seems to differ qualitatively from many other drugs is that the former's users seem better able to compensate for its adverse effects while driving under the influence.

Inter-subject correlations between plasma concentrations of the drug and driving performance after every dose were essentially nil, partly due to the peculiar kinetics of THC. It enters the brain relatively rapidly, although with a perceptible delay relative to plasma concentrations. Once there, it remains even at a time when plasma concentrations approach or reach zero. As a result, performance may still be impaired at the time that plasma concentrations of the drug are near the detection limit. This is exactly what happened in the first driving study. Therefore an important practical implications of the study is that is not possible to conclude anything about a driver's impairment on the basis of his/her plasma concentrations of THC and THC-COOH determined in a single sample.

Although THC's adverse effects on driving performance appeared relatively small in the tests employed in this program, one can still easily imagine situations where the influence of marijuana smoking might have a dangerous effect; i.e., emergency situations which put high demands on the driver's information processing capacity, prolonged monotonous driving, and after THC has been taken with other drugs, especially alcohol. Because these possibilities are real, the results of the present studies should not be considered as the final word. They should, however, serve as the point of departure for subsequent studies that will ultimately complete the picture of THC's effects on driving performance.

Library Highlights

Drug Information Articles

Drug Rehab