Marijuana legalization continues to grow in popularity across the United States. Last year, surveys from major polling firms Pew Research and Gallup found that two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization, an all-time high.
Recreational marijuana use is currently legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Of the six states in the AAA Northeast footprint, only Massachusetts has legalized the recreational use of marijuana. But this number could increase very soon.
In New Jersey, voters will decide this November whether to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults age 21 and over. The Governors of Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island have all expressed support for legalization, and it appeared all but certain to happen in New York until COVID-19 forced the state’s spring legislative session to essentially shut down.
As states move toward legalization, policymakers must address serious traffic safety concerns associated with marijuana-impaired driving.
Marijuana use has been found to moderately diminish virtually every driving‐related capacity including psychomotor functions, cognition, attention, vigilance, tracking, reaction time and coordination. Despite that, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s most recent surveys found that nearly one in 11 drivers approve of driving one hour after using marijuana, and 1 in 19 has driven shortly after using marijuana more than once in the past month.
To help prevent the dangerous outcomes of driving while impaired by marijuana, AAA Northeast has launched new initiatives aimed at combating drugged driving.
AAA has facilitated training programs for drug recognition experts. These DREs, as they’re called, are police officers specially trained to identify drivers impaired by marijuana or other drugs that might compromise safe driving.
“Drug recognition experts are facing even greater challenges when it comes to drugged driving,” said Mary Maguire, director of public and legislative affairs for AAA Northeast. “And AAA Northeast is committed to helping law enforcement meet those challenges.”
AAA also offers Shifting Gears, a program that educates teenage drivers about the physical and cognitive processes that are affected by marijuana and the potential consequences of impaired driving. This free program is now offered virtually by AAA to high schools and youth groups.
The fate of marijuana legalization in each state may be different – but AAA Northeast will be there throughout its territory, giving guidance to legislators and providing information to the community.
Learn more about the AAA programs helping to keep the roads safe for everyone.