Girl SmokingAbout 85 percent of Americans want to see laws that punish drivers impaired by marijuana, even as more states have legalized its recreational use. They remain less worried, however, about driving while taking prescription drugs, according to a new survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The AAA’s research arm notes that prescription drugs create driving risks that should not be ignored.

“Just because a doctor prescribes a drug, or you can purchase it over-the-counter doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe to use while driving,” Jake Nelson, AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy, said in prepared remarks. “Always discuss potential side effects and interactions with your doctor or pharmacist before getting behind the wheel.”

The marijuana issue is becoming one of increasing concern as far as driver liability, particularly since Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Folks at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said that many are concerned about how this will affect driving risks on American roads, and that nearly half of Americans see drug-impaired drivers as a bigger problem today versus three years ago.

But unlike laws involving alcohol use, consistent laws are not in place yet defining impairment from marijuana use. Crucially, American’s are fuzzy about impairment thresholds, safety implications and legal ramifications of marijuana use, according to the survey.

“While all states prohibit driving under the influence of drugs, there’s significant variation in the minimum acceptable levels of marijuana or its traces in a driver’s system,” Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in prepared remarks. “Sixteen states forbid any presence of prohibited drugs, while five others have specific limits for marijuana. With a lack of uniformity, it’s no surprise we found that more than half of American drivers are unaware of the laws that exist in their state.”

American drivers also appear to be unaware of the threats that drug impairment can cause while driving, the survey revealed. Two-thirds of respondents said that people who drive after drinking alcohol offer a “very serious” threat to their personal safety, according to the results. A bit over half had a similar response for drug use.

One out of six Americans responded that in their communities, most people thought it was acceptable to drive one hour after using marijuana, even though government research has suggested it can hurt driving performance for up to 3 hours.

Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety