The Columbian / Associated Press

Driving while high: Marijuana users twice as likely to crash, AAA study finds

Nearly 15 million people report driving while high on pot, making them twice as likely to be involved in a crash, a new AAA study has found.

The study also showed more drivers view texting or talking on cellphones while driving to be more risky behavior than smoking weed and getting behind the wheel, according to the 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index survey.

The annual study, sponsored by the Tampa-based AAA Foundation, also found that nearly 70% of Americans feel it’s unlikely people driving high will be caught by police. Impairing effects of pot are usually experienced within four hours of using the drug. The study surveyed 3,349 respondents ages 16 and older in 2018.

Alcohol-impaired driving was viewed to be more risky (92 percent) than driving within an hour of smoking weed (72.9 percent). Drowsy driving and prescription drug-impaired driving also were seen as more problematic than pot.

The state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use shows there were 224,815 active registered medical-marijuana users in Florida in June. Medical marijuana treatment centers dispense cannabis products to patients as recommended by physicians.

Other findings:

Nearly 14% of millennial drivers aged 23 to 38 were most likely to report driving within an hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days

10% of Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2015) were most likely to report driving within an hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days

8% of men and 5% of women reported driving after using marijuana in the past 30 days

“It’s deeply concerning that many Americans don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or texting while driving,” said Mark Jenkins, a AAA spokesman. “Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgement. It is important for everyone to understand that driving ‘high’ puts you, your passengers, and other motorists in danger.”

In 2017, there were 37,133 motor vehicle fatalities on U.S. roadways, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a 1.8% decrease from 2016.