Study: Heavy marijuana users are dangerous drivers, even when sober

National News

FILE – In this April 20, 2016, file photo, a man smokes a marijuana joint at a party celebrating weed in Seattle. A new federally funded study found, not surprisingly, that marijuana use in Washington state is up since pot became legal in 2014. The hard, or not-so-hard, evidence was in sewage samples. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

(WTVO) — According to a new study, exposure to cannabis may result in difficulties performing complex cognitive tasks, resulting in impaired driving even when users are sober.

According to NBC News, a study by researchers at McLean Hospital in Boston tested participants in a driving simulator and found that cannabis users who started using the drug in their teens had more accidents, drove at higher speeds, and drove through more red lights compared to those who had never used marijuana.

Researchers said the bad driving appeared to be exclusively limited to those who started smoking pot before they were 16-years-old, suggesting that early marijuana use made changes in the brain which led subjects more impulsive and prone to make rash decisions.

NBC reports that the experiment used 28 heavy cannabis users and 17 non users, with an average age of 23.

During the driving test, cannabis users were more likely to speed, hit a pedestrian, cross the center line, miss stop signs and go through red lights.

Researchers said the marijuana users were also more likely to score high in impulse behavior.

The study acknowledged that the data does not show whether early marijuana users were impulsive to begin with, or if exposure to the drug at a young age made them that way.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the number of fatal crashes in which drivers tested positive for cannabis more than doubled between 2007 to 2016, rising from 8 percent to 18 percent.

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