Drugged Driving: How marijuana impacts drivers

Drugged Driving: How marijuana impacts drivers

(WOIO) - Ohio voters decide next week whether to legalize marijuana or not. Those for and against the proposals often look to Colorado for answers, since marijuana was legalized there in 2014.

It was a simple test done by our sister station in Colorado that we took notice of because of the Issue 3 vote next week.

What it involves:
1 car
24 laps
10 cameras
3 drivers -- all high

"My name is Tyrone. I'm 50 years old. I'm a moderate to heavy user, daily."

Ty showed up, well below the legal limit in Colorado, of 5 nanograms-per-milliliter of blood of THC.

"My name is Chris. I'm 28 years old and I smoke every day to ease the pain."

Chris showed up, also below the limit.

And 25-year-old Lauren, a heavy user of marijuana, showed up at the test track more than twice the legal limit!

The closed driving course was set up with cones, quick lane changes, and stop signs. An instructor was in the car to monitor the driving.

The drivers took a few practice rides, then they lit up. After each smoke, lab techs measured for the levels of THC in each person's blood.

Ty was just over twice the limit, after just smoking a little. She feels in control, but has trouble maintaining the speed limit and strikes several of the cones.

But she doesn't think the pot impaired her driving.

"I felt more relaxed," said Ty.

"She did worse than the first time. She's missing entire elements of the course," reports the driving instructor.

Before and after smoking, she repeatedly drove on the wrong side of the cones. On later runs, the instructor said she improved on the front of the course, but her speed was inconsistent and she repeated mistakes.

"For the most part, I would say your driving was as if you are impaired," the instructor told Ty.

Chris' first puffs put him at 26 nanograms, more than five times the limit.

He insists he can drive fine. Having smoked a bit, his performance is described as more conservative, with more jerky steering, but he only hits a small number of cones.

His speed increased as his THC levels went up throughout the tests and he struck a few more cones.

His assessment?

"Piece of cake. It was awesome," says Chris.

"I wouldn't say he's driving just fine. I think he's driving like impaired," says the instructor.

Lauren used a water pipe to ingest the marijuana. After her first smoke, she was at more than three times the limit!

But Lauren says she has a long way to go before her driving ability is affected.

"I don't even think I could smoke that much," Lauren laughs.

Then comes the test.

"I'm going to hit it, no I'm not!!! Sorry. I've got to have a little fun, you know," joked Lauren.

She redid the course and continued smoking.

"Oh, sorry! I messed that up. I definitely feel high now," she says.

The driving instructor noted that she had problems with speed and going beyond stop signs.

"I may have sped a bit, but I don't think I knocked any cones over, or animals, or people, or anyone," explained Lauren.

At the end of the day, no one ran off the road and the instructor did not have to grab the wheel or hit his brake.

Each had their own conclusions:

"I don't think I've smoked enough here today to impair me from driving a vehicle," said Ty.

"I say I nailed it," said Chris.

"It shows we can still do this. Doesn't matter on THC levels," Lauren tried to explain.

Walking the line between sober and high may be difficult, but knowing the difference can be critical.

Copyright 2015 WOIO. All rights reserved.