Nearly 5% of Americans admit that they drove while high last year

Millions of Americans are stoned on the road: Nearly 5% of the population admit that they drove high last year

  • Some 12 million Americans drove while high last year 
  • Just under one percent, or 2.3 million Americans said they used other drugs then drove, CDC data reveal
  • Between 1999 and 2010, the number of fatal car crashes involving marijuana tripled
  • As marijuana becomes legal in more states, more people toke and drive and law enforcement are struggling to keep up  

In 2018, about 12 million Americans drove while high – and willingly admitted it to health officials. 

According to the new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly five percent of Americans reported driving after using marijuana last year. 

Just under one percent admitted to driving under the influence of other illegal drugs. 

Though the rate of drunk driving still outpaces drugged driving, marijuana is catching up quickly, and the number of fatal accidents involving the drug has tripled in recent years. 

Some 12 million Americans drove after using marijuana in 2018, new CDC figures reveal 

As marijuana is legalized in more states, more people are taking up toking, vaping and eating the drug. 

It’s now legal in 33 states for medical use and can be used recreationally in 11. 

And use it, Americans are. The CDC estimated that even back in 2014, there were 7,000 new users a day. 

Rising rates of marijuana use mean more people are using it more places and overlapping with more activities.  

In 2014, just 3.2 percent of people between ages 16 and 25  – an age demographic with higher general rates of marijuana use than average – drove high.

By 2018, 4.7 percent of all Americans over 16 had gotten behind the wheel of a car while stoned. 

Although it’s not quite a direct comparison, that means that nearly 47 percent more people of all driving ages did so while high in 2018 than did the group of Americans most prone to weed smoking in 2014. 

There’s a common misconception that driving while high is not dangerous, or at least not as dangerous as drinking while driving. 

In 2018, 10,511 Americans died in drunk driving accidents. 

The CDC has struggled to get a clear estimate of how many driving deaths involved marijuana or other illicit drugs.  

But other studies have found soaring rates of these accidents, particularly in states where marijuana has been legalized and in instances when both marijuana and alcohol were involved. 

‘Research has determined that co-use of marijuana or illicit drugs with alcohol increases the risk for driving impairment,’ the CDC study authors write. 

‘The use of these substances has been associated with impairment of psychomotor and cognitive functions while driving.’ 

Marijuana presents a challenge for law enforcement because there is not a reliable way to test blood or saliva for whether someone is high – but many scientists are hard at work to solve this puzzle.   

‘Impaired driving is a serious public health concern that needs to be addressed to safeguard the health and safety of all who use the road, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists,’ the authors wrote.