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Survey of U.S. drivers about marijuana, alcohol, and driving

Eichelberger, Angela H.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
December 2016

Objective: The primary goals were to gauge current opinions and behaviors related to driving after using marijuana and driving after drinking alcohol, and to examine how these responses vary by state laws on marijuana.
Methods: During July-October 2015, drivers 18 and older completed telephone interviews about their opinions on marijuana, alcohol, and driving, and their marijuana and alcohol use and driving. The study included representative samples of 1,508 drivers in three states with legalized marijuana for recreational use (Colorado, Oregon, and Washington), 2,510 drivers in five comparison states without legalized marijuana for recreational use (Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming), and 507 drivers in other states and the District of Columbia.
Results: Drivers were more likely to say that drinking and driving is a problem in their community than driving after using marijuana (64% vs. 29%). Drivers were more likely to agree that drinking and driving, relative to driving after using marijuana, is common in the community (56% vs. 34%) and increases the likelihood of a crash (98% vs. 78%). Reported alcohol use (57%) was far more prevalent than marijuana use (9%) within the past year. Drivers in states with legal recreational marijuana, relative to those in comparison states, more often said driving after using marijuana is a problem (43% vs. 28%), were twice as likely to report using marijuana within the past year (16% vs. 8%), more often were drinkers (60% vs. 46%), and more often had driven within 2 hours of using marijuana (6% vs. 3%) or drinking (21% vs. 15%).
Conclusions: Driving after drinking remains a bigger concern for the public than driving after using marijuana. However, this gap may narrow as states implement laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. This survey can serve as a baseline for monitoring changes over time.