This Is Your Camry On Drugs

The change in the social perception of drunk driving is one of the great public health success stories of the last half-century. It went from being perceived as an amusing bit of recklessness to something truly despicable, and today drunk driving deaths are half of what they were a few decades ago. And now that recreational marijuana is legal in Washington and Colorado, almost surely to be followed by other states, there's a renewed need to discourage driving while high.

The key to the success of the drunk driving campaign was creating a new social norm, one in which people would discourage each other from driving drunk. It also gave people a means to avoid it, by popularizing the idea of the designated driver. Washington state is starting a campaign to discourage driving while high with three PSAs soon to be airing in the state. No frying eggs here:

OK, so that's kind of funny. But I'm a little skeptical about whether it will have a dramatic impact. The ad does include the idea of social opprobrium, but in this case it isn't driving while high that earns this dude scorn, it's just being a dumb stoner.

The other two ads in the campaign are similar, showing people doing everyday activities very poorly while others around them scoff at their stoned incompetence. In one, a guy playing pickup basketball dribbles the ball endlessly while the other players wait for him to take his foul shot; in the other, a guy hangs a TV on the wall and is inordinately proud of himself until it crashes to the floor.

This is a much gentler approach than some similar campaigns, which have focused more on the disastrous potential of driving drunk or while texting (this one, from the U.K., may be the most gruesome). So perhaps they're viewing this as a multi-stage effort, and this first stage is just to introduce the idea of driving while high as a potential problem, then later on they'll try to horrify viewers. But it does present a new challenge. There are certain psychological factors that should play out similarly whether we're talking about drunk driving, high driving, or distracted driving—people's risk perceptions, their responses to fear appeals, and so on. On the other hand, pot exists within a social milieu and set of rituals that are different from those of alcohol, and that may affect how you want to confront the driving issue. For instance, a lot of drunk driving happens when people travel to an establishment where alcohol is served (there are around 65,000 bars and nightclubs in America), then need to get home, whereas we don't (yet) have thousands of cannabis cafes.

Communication researchers have produced a zillion experimental and survey-based studies on what does and doesn't work in various kinds of public health PSAs, on topics from drunk driving to drug use to smoking. So this opens up a whole new area to investigate. Better start getting those grant applications ready.

Here are the other two ads, in case you're curious:

Comments

Why does most everyone jump to the automatic, knee-jerk, and FALSE assumption that cannabis impairs drivers much the same as does alcohol? Why let uninformed opinions be the basis of new laws? It took me very little time to do a search, and find actual scientific studies which indicate just how incorrect such an assumption is. Examples follow.

Studies Show Marijuana Consumption Not Associated With Dangerous Driving, May Lead to Safer Drivers
Anyone who consumes cannabis on a regular basis knows that it doesn’t make you a dangerous driver. Many people find that it makes them a safer, more focused driver; one that’s more aware of their surroundings and the dangers associated with controlling tons of gasoline-filled metal. Not only has this been an anecdotal truth for as long as cars and cannabis have been paired, science has also been clear that consuming marijuana doesn’t make you a dangerous driver, and may make some people safer drivers. More research is needed, but it’s hard to deny that of the research we have, marijuana hasn’t been found to increase a person’s risk of an accident. To back this claim up, here’s a list of studies and research conducted on this very topic, some of which were funded by national governments in hopes of different results.
http://thejointblog.com/studies-shows-marijuana-consumption-not-associated-with-dangerous-driving-may-lead-to-safer-drivers/

Marijuana and Driving: A Review of the Scientific Evidence
"Marijuana has a measurable yet relatively mild effect on psychomotor skills, yet it does not appear to play a significant role in vehicle crashes, particularly when compared to alcohol. Below is a summary of some of the existing data."
http://norml.org/library/item/marijuana-and-driving-a-review-of-the-scientific-evidence

The incidence and role of drugs in fatally injured drivers
"There was no indication that cannabis by itself was a cause of fatal crashes."
REFERENCE: Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
Report No. DOT HS 808 065, K. Terhune. 1992.
http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/26000/26600/26685/DOT_HS_808_065.pdf

Marijuana’s effects on actual driving performance
“Evidence from the present and previous studies strongly suggests that alcohol encourages risky driving whereas THC encourages greater caution. .. Drivers under the influence of marijuana retain insight in their performance and will compensate when they can, for example, by slowing down or increasing effort. As a consequence, THC’s adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small.”
REFERENCE: University of Adelaide study, 1995
www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Misc/driving/s1p2.htm

Role of cannabis in motor vehicle crashes
"There is no evidence that consumption of cannabis alone increases the risk of culpability for traffic crash fatalities or injuries for which hospitalization occurs, and may reduce those risks.. The more cautious behavior of subjects who have received marijuana decreases the impact of the drug on performance, whereas the opposite holds true for alcohol.”
REFERENCE: Marijuana: On-Road and Driving-Simulator Studies; Epidemiologic Reviews 21: 222-232, A. Smiley. 1999.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10682259

"Both simulation and road trials generally find that driving behaviour shortly after consumption of larger doses of cannabis results in (i) a more cautious driving style; (ii) increased variability in lane position (and headway); and (iii) longer decision times. Whereas these results indicate a 'change' from normal conditions, they do not necessarily reflect 'impairment' in terms of performance effectiveness since few studies report increased accident risk."
REFERENCE: UK Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (Road Safety Division). 2000.
/http:/www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/research/rsrr/theme3/cannabisanddrivingareviewoft4764?page=12

Cannabis And Cannabinoids - Pharmacology, Toxicology And Therapy
“At the present time, the evidence to suggest an involvement of cannabis in road crashes is scientifically unproven”.
REFERENCE: G. Chesher and M. Longo. 2002.
https://www.dmt-nexus.me/Files/Books/General/Cannabis%20And%20Cannabinoids%20-%20Pharmacology,Toxicology%20And%20Therapy.pdf

Cannabis: Our position for a Canadian Public Policy
“Cannabis alone, particularly in low doses, has little effect on the skills involved in automobile driving. Cannabis leads to a more cautious style of driving. However it has a negative impact on decision time and trajectory. This in itself does not mean that drivers under the influence of cannabis represent a traffic safety risk”
REFERENCE: Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs. 2002.
http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/sen/committee/371/ille/rep/summary-e.htm

“The evidence to suggest an involvement of cannabis in road crashes is scientifically unproven.”
REFERENCE: Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential, 2002
Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential, edited by Franjo Grotenhermen, MD and Ethan Russo, MD (Haworth Press 2002).
https://www.dmt-nexus.me/Files/Books/General/Cannabis%20And%20Cannabinoids%20-%20Pharmacology,Toxicology%20And%20Therapy.pdf

The Prevalence of Drug Use in Drivers, and Characteristics of the Drug-Positive Group
"There was a clear relationship between alcohol and culpability. In contrast, there was no significant increase in culpability for cannabinoids alone."
REFERENCE: Accident Analysis and Prevention 32(5): 613-622. Longo, MC; Hunter, CE; Lokan, RJ; White, JM; and White, MA. (2000a).
http://www.grotenhermen.com/driving/longo1.pdf

The Effect Of Cannabis Compared With Alcohol On Driving
“Although cognitive studies suggest that cannabis use may lead to unsafe driving, experimental studies have suggested that it can have the opposite effect.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2009
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722956/

Why Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Traffic Deaths
“No differences were found during the baseline driving segment (and the) collision avoidance scenarios,”
REFERENCE: Research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2010
http://healthland.time.com/2011/12/02/why-medical-marijuana-laws-reduce-traffic-deaths/

Top 10 Reasons Marijuana Users Are Safer Drivers
“20 years of study has concluded that marijuana smokers may actually have fewer accidents than other drivers.”
http://www.4autoinsurancequote.com/uncategorized/reasons-why-marijuana-users-are-safe-drivers/

Risk of severe driver injury by driving with psychoactive substances
"The study found that those with a blood alcohol level of 0.12% were over 30 times more likely to get into a serious accident than someone who’s consumed any amount of cannabis. .. The least risky drug seemed to be cannabis and benzodiazepines and Z-drugs."
REFERENCE: Accident Analysis & Prevention; Volume 59, October 2013, Pages 346–356
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001457513002315

Cannabis: Summary Report
“Cannabis alone, particularly in low doses, has little effect on the skills involved in automobile driving.”
REFERENCE: Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
https://www.dmt-nexus.me/Files/Books/General/Cannabis%20And%20Cannabinoids%20-%20Pharmacology,Toxicology%20And%20Therapy.pdf

Acute cannabis consumption and motor vehicle collision risk
"There is no evidence that consumption of cannabis alone increases the risk of culpability for traffic crash fatalities or injuries for which hospitalization occurs, and may reduce those risks."
REFERENCE: British Medical Journal, 1999; M. Bates and T. Blakely

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