State launches TV ads to discourage residents from driving impaired
In the wake of recreational marijuana being legalized, the state launched a TV ad campaign Wednesday to discourage residents from driving impaired.
The 30-second ads, which feature four cannabis users from Massachusetts, will air for the rest of the summer. In the ads, they discuss their personal experiences and caution against driving after smoking weed or drinking.
THC — a chemical found in cannabis — slows reaction times, impairs thinking, and makes it harder for drivers to stay in their lane, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Any kind of impairment, whether it’s from alcohol, marijuana, an illegal substance, over the counter or even legally prescribed medication can affect your ability to drive safely,” Thomas Turco, secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, said in a statement.
Governor Charlie Baker, who opposed the legalization of weed in 2016 and has proposed a bill to crack down on stoned drivers, said the campaign aims to educate the public on how weed impairs driving ability.
“Research and data show that many people do not understand or believe the link between using marijuana and impaired driving, so this campaign is designed specifically to address these myths,” Baker said in a statement. “The height of the summer travel season is an opportunity for us to remind motorists about the dangers of impaired driving.”
Turco’s office conducted focus groups with cannabis and alcohol users in June to better inform the ads, according to the press release.
Their study found that many participants didn’t know that cannabis can impair driving safety, that the same people who would not take care of children or grandchildren or operate power tools while high would still consider driving, and that there is greater stigma around drunken driving than around stoned driving. Participants also did not consider the law a deterrent to driving while high.
The focus groups also revealed that older and female participants were less likely to feel comfortable driving after using marijuana. The state’s impaired driving campaign, called “Wisdom,” targets 18- to 34-year-old men, the group most at risk of being in impaired-driving crashes, the press release said.