New evidence: Marijuana and driving don’t mix

We’ve all heard the warnings about drinking and driving, but what about driving while under the influence of other substances?

A new study published this week in the British Medical Journal found that drivers who use marijuana up to three hours before driving are twice as likely to cause a traffic accidence compared to those not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

While it may seems obvious that driving under the influence of any substance would lead to more accidents, this is the first systematic review to gather all of the evidence on traffic accidents and marijuana use.

“To our knowledge this meta-analysis is the first to examine the association between acute cannabis use and the risk of motor vehicle collisions in real life,” the researchers wrote.

The study reviewed nine studies of nearly 50,000 across the globe involved collisions on public roads. It found the increased risk was most pronounced in studies of fatal collisions, and that the impact of acute cannabis consumption on the risk of minor crashes remains unclear.

This type of review adds to the body of evidence that ultimately helps policy-makers understand public health threats. In this case, it seems clear that lawmakers and public health officials need to do more to help the public understand the dangers of driving while under the influence of marijuana.

Stuck in a jam? The science behind traffic

?  So a recent story in the Washington Post about the science of traffic piqued my interest.  It turns out (of course!) there’s an entire field of study around alleviating traffic problems that spans city planning, human behavior and health topics.

There are mathematical models that explain why traffic slows for seemingly no reason at all.  (It turns out these traffic jams are self-sustaining waves, similar to the detonation waves produced by explosions.

Another study has found that it’s actually the rate of merging that contributions to slow-downs on freeways, instead of the capacity of the road.

While there’s much evidence on the causes of traffic congestion, research has pointed to proven solution to solve the problem. But it’s good to know that scientists are working on it.

On a related note, there  is plenty of evidence available on the topic of preventing traffic accidents that lead to injury or death. The Cochrane Collaboration has put together a list of systematic review on various methods to reduce injuries and deaths caused by cars and trucks.  Among them:

Solving issues related to traffic congestion and accidents is just another area where it pays to consult the research.

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