The field sobriety test has an 88 percent success rate at identifying drivers who are under the influence of alcohol but only a 30 percent success rate for those who are under the influence of marijuana. The different effects of THC on the body when compared with alcohol and other types of drugs is the main culprit here, leaving police without the proper tools to identify those who are a potential safety hazard to others.
One of the factors that most influences whether police can use the field sobriety test to identify a stoned driver is how acclimated the driver is to using marijuana. Habitual users of the drug may find it easier to pass a sobriety test than those who are experiencing the effects of the drug for the first or second time and are unaware of its impact on their body. In fact, one study found that 50 percent of less frequent marijuana users failed the field sobriety test.
Because legal marijuana use is in its early stages in states that allow medical use or recreational use of the drug, there is not a lot of research out there about how dangerous it really is to drive while stoned and even less public awareness of the issue.
A senior investigator at the National Institute on Drug Abuse told reporters that they are looking to create evidence-based drug policies that use the latest scientific research to help craft effective law enforcement policies.
In California individuals with qualifying medical conditions may legally use marijuana but it remains illegal to drive while under the influence of the drug. Those who are intoxicated with THC at the time of a car accident that causes injuries or deaths should be liable for driving under the influence in both civil and criminal actions.
Source: New York Times, “Driving Under the Influence, of Marijuana,” Maggie Koerth-Baker, Feb. 17, 2014.