Sex Differences in the Effects of Marijuana on Simulated Driving Performance
In the United States, one in six teenagers has driven under the influence of marijuana. Driving under the influence of marijuana and alcohol is equally prevalent, despite the fact that marijuana use is less common than alcohol use.
Much of the research examining the effects of marijuana on driving performance was conducted in the 1970s and led to equivocal findings. During that time, few studies included women and driving simulators were rudimentary. Further, the potency of marijuana commonly used recreationally has increased. This study examined sex differences in the acute effects of marijuana on driving performance using a realistic, validated driving simulator.
Eighty-five subjects (n = 50 males, 35 females) participated in this between-subjects, double-blind, placebo controlled study. In addition to an uneventful, baseline segment of driving, participants were challenged with collision avoidance and distracted driving scenarios.
Under the influence of marijuana, participants decreased their speed and failed to show expected practice effects during a distracted drive. No differences were found during the baseline driving segment or collision avoidance scenarios. No differences attributable to sex were observed.
This study enhances the current literature by identifying distracted driving and the integration of prior experience as particularly problematic under the influence of marijuana.