Matt Schmitz and Chris Woodyard at USA Today exemplify dishonest reporting on drugged driving

Marijuana playing larger role in fatal crashes by Matt Schmitz and Chris Woodyard at Cars.com and USA Today.

This article is just another example of blatantly dishonest reporting (or, just as bad, ignorant reporting).

It may be that Matt Schmitz and Chris Woodyard are experts at cars and don’t know anything about marijuana, but if that’s true, they shouldn’t be writing articles about the two together without getting some help.

Columbia University researchers performing a toxicology examination of nearly 24,000 driving fatalities concluded that marijuana contributed to 12% of traffic deaths in 2010, tripled from a decade earlier.

Nope. They concluded nothing of the sort.

Nowhere did they say that marijuana “contributed” to traffic deaths. In fact, they went out of their way to note: “the prevalence of nonalcohol drugs reported in this study should be interpreted as an indicator of drug use, not necessarily a measurement of drug impairment.” That’s because the study measured those who tested positive, whether they were impaired or not, and that could include those who ingested marijuana days earlier.

Let’s see what else Schmitz and Woodyard have to say:

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found that 4% of drivers were high during the day and more than 6% at night, and that nighttime figure more than doubled on weekends.

Nope. They never found that at all.

Nowhere did they say that the drivers were “high.” In fact, they went out of their way to note: “The reader is cautioned that drug presence does not necessarily imply impairment. For many drug types, drug presence can be detected long after any impairment that might affect driving has passed.”

All of us care about the safety of roads and realize that all kinds of things can affect drivers in different ways, and learning more of the actual facts about driving impairment is a good thing.

But irresponsible reporting that merely plays on fears with unsupported conclusions doesn’t help us make good policy decisions and therefore can actually lead to less-safe roads.

Maybe Matt and Chris should stick to telling us about carburetors.

[Thanks, Allan]

[See: Use of headlights linked to traffic fatalities]

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