Influence of cannabis use history on the impact of acute cannabis smoking on simulated driving performance during a distraction task

Traffic Inj Prev. 2022;23(sup1):S1-S7. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2022.2072492. Epub 2022 Jun 10.


Objective: This research explores the driving performance of people who use cannabis daily or occasionally during distraction tasks performed following acute cannabis use.Methods: Healthy adults aged 25 to 45 years with different cannabis usage histories were recruited to participate in a within-subjects controlled experiment using a car-based driving simulator. Participants were classified as having daily use (n = 31), occasional use (1 or 2 times per week; n = 24), or no-use (n = 30). Participants completed a practice drive followed by four 5-10 minute driving scenarios during the baseline period. Participants then smoked self-procured cannabis flower ad libitum for up to 15 minutes. Thirty minutes later, they completed four additional 5-10 minute scenarios. Scenarios were paired according to difficulty and randomized across the baseline and post-use periods. Each scenario contained between 0 and 3 repetitions of a distraction task where the participant was prompted by an audio message to select an app from a 4 × 5 grid displayed on a mounted tablet, a step that would require briefly looking away from the roadway. Measures of driving performance (lane departures, standard deviation of lateral position) were assessed during the five-second period following the audio trigger and analyzed using generalized linear mixed models.Results: Those with a pattern of occasional use were significantly more likely to experience a lane departure during distraction periods after acute cannabis use relative to baseline (OR = 3.71, p = 0.04, CI = 1.04, 13.17), while those with daily use did not exhibit a similar increase (OR = 1.56, p = 0.43, CI = 0.52, 4.64). Changes in departure risk were significantly greater for the occasional use group compared to no-use (p = 0.02), but not for the daily use group compared to no-use (p = 0.18). However, following acute use, those who use daily exhibited decreases in speed relative to baseline in comparison to the changes observed in the no-use group (p = 0.02), while differences between occasional and no-use did not reach statistical significance (p = 0.052). Differences in standard deviation of lateral position were not statistically significant, likely due to the short duration of tasks.Conclusions: These results find the largest potential safety concerns associated with a pattern of occasional use, who displayed an increase in lane departures after acute cannabis smoking. Those in the daily use group decreased their speed, which may be interpreted as compensation for drug effects. Further research is needed to understand the effects during longer and more complex secondary tasks.

Keywords: Cannabis impaired driving; distraction; driving simulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cannabis* / adverse effects
  • Computer Simulation
  • Distracted Driving* / psychology
  • Distracted Driving* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Smoking* / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance* / drug effects