The relationship between performance on the standardised field sobriety tests, driving performance and the level of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in blood

Forensic Sci Int. 2005 Dec 20;155(2-3):172-8. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2004.11.009. Epub 2005 Jan 11.


The consumption of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as cannabis has been shown to result in impaired and culpable driving. Testing drivers for the presence of THC in blood is problematic as THC and its metabolites may remain in the blood for several days following its consumption, even though the drug may no longer have an influence on driving performance. In the present study, the aim was to assess whether performance on the standardised field sobriety tests (SFSTs) provides a sensitive measure of impaired driving behaviour following the consumption of THC. In a repeated measures design, 40 participants consumed cigarettes that contained either 0% THC (placebo), 1.74% THC (low dose) or 2.93% THC (high dose). For each condition, after smoking a cigarette, participants performed the SFSTs on three occasions (5, 55 and 105 min after the smoking procedure had been completed) as well as a simulated driving test on two occasions (30 and 80 min after the smoking procedure had been completed). The results revealed that driving performance was not significantly impaired 30 min after the consumption of THC but was significantly impaired 80 min after the consumption of THC in both the low and high dose conditions. The percentage of participants whose driving performance was correctly classified as either impaired or not impaired based on the SFSTs ranged between 65.8 and 76.3%, across the two THC conditions. The results suggest that performance on the SFSTs provides a moderate predictor of driving impairment following the consumption of THC and as such, the SFSTs may provide an appropriate screening tool for authorities that wish to assess the driving capabilities of individuals suspected of being under the influence of a drug other than alcohol.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Automobile Driver Examination*
  • Automobile Driving
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dronabinol / administration & dosage
  • Dronabinol / blood*
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / blood*
  • Marijuana Abuse / diagnosis
  • Psychotropic Drugs / administration & dosage
  • Psychotropic Drugs / blood*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Time Factors


  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Dronabinol