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Iowa tests seek to develop guidelines for stoned driving

Nineteen Iowans recently participated in a federal study to help determine the impact of marijuana combined with alcohol on driving. Many people might ask, "Where do I sign up?" However, the research conducted at the National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa in Iowa City over the past year has serious goals.

Researchers hope to give regulators some guidelines for measuring the amount of marijuana that a person can have in his or her system before being too impaired to drive. Similar testing was done before legal limits for blood alcohol content for drivers were determined. They also sought to determine how a combination of alcohol and marijuana impacts drivers.

The study, which was completed this spring, was the most comprehensive of its kind. The researchers hope to publish their initial findings this fall.

Researchers say they hope to develop some guidelines that will help determine the legal limit of cannabis a person can have in his or her system while driving. They looked at the types of functions that were impacted in the volunteers, such as the ability to judge time, move and follow directions.

Volunteers were given various combinations of alcohol and marijuana, while some were given placebos, and their intoxication levels were monitored. They took the wheel of a simulator that took them through various types of roads, complete with unexpected events.

As more states legalize marijuana both for medicinal and recreational purposes, some states, like Colorado, are training their law enforcement officers to recognize drivers who are under the influence of the drug. Unlike with alcohol, there is no breath test that can determine whether someone has ingested marijuana. As one Colorado state trooper said, the wisest thing for anyone to do is not to drive if they have consumed any amount of alcohol or marijuana.

No matter how careful Iowa drivers are, we cannot control what condition other people are in when they get behind the wheel. People who are injured by an at-fault driver who is found to be under the influence of alcohol or any drugs, legal or illegal, may be able to use that information in making civil claims against the driver. Such claims can help with medical treatment and other financial burdens and possibly help incentivize other drivers to think twice before driving drunk or after taking drugs.

Source: KHOU, "Feds test how stoned is too stoned to drive" Jul. 25, 2014

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