January 7, 2008, Updated September 13, 2012

Drivers who mix alcohol and drugs are just not safe warn Prof David Shinar and Dr. Adi Ronen of Ben Gurion University of the Negev.New research by Israeli road safety experts has shown that even small amounts of alcohol and marijuana mixed together form a lethal cocktail for drivers.

The study, conducted by scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Beersheva for the Israel Anti-Drugs Authority, showed that the combination of alcohol and drugs minimizes a driver’s ability to navigate a straight path in the middle of a lane and observe speed limits.

According to Prof. David Shinar, a professor at BGU’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, and his colleague Dr. Adi Ronen, being under the influence of alcohol and other drugs is one of the main causes of road accidents. In the Western world today, road accidents are the leading cause of death for people aged between five and 35.

The researchers pointed out that even in relatively small doses, the combination can be extremely dangerous as the active substance in marijuana combines with alcohol to have a bigger impact on the person taking it.

According to a report in the Jerusalem Post , the study, which took place over five sessions, included 12 social users of marijuana (seven men and five women aged 24 to 29). A control group smoked cigarettes and drank juice without alcohol. Others drank alcohol and smoked tobacco, while the study group smoked marijuana and drank alcohol.

The volunteers were then asked to drive a car using a computerized simulator. They were asked to navigate straight and crooked sections, on level and hilly roads and in foggy conditions. Before and after driving, they were asked to solve two-digit addition and subtraction problems.

The researchers found that even a low dose of marijuana and alcohol affected their ability to drive and complete math problems. They also noted that most people who mix drink and drugs tend to do so at night, when driving conditions are even more hazardous.

Shinar, who was appointed chief scientist of the National Road Safety Authority in August last year, has been researching driver and pedestrian behavior and the cause of road accidents for more than 30 years.

At BGU he established a driver behavior research program that includes a driving laboratory with a full size state-of-the-art driving simulator and an eye movements tracking system.

Shinar and Ronen now plan to compare the effects of drink and drugs on male and female drivers.


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