Driving High vs. Driving Drunk: The Test Results

Posted on: 7:16 pm, May 17, 2012, by , updated on: 10:11pm, May 17, 2012

DENVER, Colo. – In a one of a kind report, FOX 31 Denver is taking an in-depth look at how drivers under the influence of alcohol and marijuana can do behind the wheel.

In May, Colorado lawmakers voted down a proposal that would limit how much delta-9 THC a driver could have in their system if pulled over for impaired driving. That law would have required drivers to show their blood levels contained 5 nanograms or less of delta 9 in their body.

“It doesn`t matter what the chemical is, if the impairment is from drugs or alcohol, you’re breaking the law,” said officer Mark Ashby with the Thornton Police Department.

As part of our test, Officer Ashby judged our drivers using a computer simulator to take the place of a real car. That simulator, according to volunteers, took time to get used to and often would not reflect what they would find on a highway.

“It was a little touchy at first but I’m trying to get used to it,” said 28 year-old Brian, our drunk driving volunteer.

For our experience, Brian consumed roughly a half bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey in an over an hour to simulate an impaired drunk driver.

“You know there is impairment being shown, but its more his reaction has been delayed much like that right there,” said Ashby when evaluating Brian’s second time behind the wheel, with the alcohol in his system.

Our breathalyzer test later showed Brian’s BAC level to be at .085, above the limit that would have been considered unimpaired to drive.

“I wouldn’t want to drive.” added Brian.

To simulate a driver who would be under the influence of marijuana, we asked a daily medicinal cannabis user to drive both before and after smoking.

“The second time around I was more alert, more aware of what was going on, I had more of a handle of it,” said Justin, our marijuana user.

After an hour between taking his medicine, Justin’s blood test would show 47 nanograms of Delta-9 THC, a level well above what lawmakers would have considered impaired.

However, prior to lighting up, our test showed Justin’s Delta-9 levels sat at 21 nanograms even though he hadn’t smoked all day long.

“Justin is doing pretty well, he’s not having any delays in his driving he’s looking in all directions, and he hasn`t shown any impairment I can notice.” said Ashby when judging Justin’s driving with the marijuana now in his body.

Colorado voters will decide in November whether or not to legalize marijuana, similar to the way alcohol is regulated already.

To view part one of our study, click here

Join the discussion at #drivinghigh on Twitter.