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The effects of cannabis and alcohol on simulated arterial driving: Influences of driving experience and task demand.

Lenné MG, Dietze PM, Triggs TJ, Walmsley S, Murphy B, Redman JR

  • Journal Accident; analysis and prevention

  • Published 06 Jan 2011

  • Volume 42

  • ISSUE 3

  • Pagination 859-66

  • DOI 10.1016/j.aap.2009.04.021


This study compared the effects of three doses of cannabis and alcohol (placebo, low and high doses), both alone and in combination, on the driving performance of young, novice drivers and more experienced drivers. Alcohol was administered as ethanol (95%) mixed with orange juice in doses of approximately 0, 0.4 and 0.6g/kg. Cannabis was administered by inhalation of smoke from pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes (supplied by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, USA). Active cigarettes contained 19 mg delta-9-THC. Using a counterbalanced design, the simulated driving performance of 25 experienced and 22 inexperienced drivers was tested under the nine different drug conditions in an arterial driving environment during which workload was varied through the drive characteristics as well as through the inclusion of a secondary task. High levels of cannabis generally induced greater impairment than lower levels, while alcohol at the doses used had few effects and did not produce synergistic effects when combined with cannabis. Both cannabis and alcohol were associated with increases in speed and lateral position variability, high dose cannabis was associated with decreased mean speed, increased mean and variability in headways, and longer reaction time, while in contrast alcohol was associated with a slight increase in mean speed. Given the limitations of the study, it is of great interest to further explore the qualitative impairments in driving performance associated with cannabis and alcohol separately and how these impairments may manifest in terms of crash characteristics.