Too Stoned To Drive? There's An App For That

By McCarton Ackerman 04/01/15

This new technology brings us one step closer to roads safe from "high" drivers. 


Driving while high is the latest issue that motorists have had to dodge while behind the wheel, particularly in states where marijuana is legal, but a new app could help make pot smokers more accountable by determining whether a user is too high to drive.

Researchers from Arizona State University in Tempe have developed the groundbreaking technology and unveiled it earlier this month. Using high-speed cameras that detect involuntary eye movements associated with marijuana use, the State Press reported that users simply stare into a phone’s camera to let the technology record the eye movements and determine whether they’re fit to drive. The app could be downloaded to most smartphones and tablets.

“It’s a noninvasive test that employs a proven technology that is currently being used to diagnose neurological disease,” said Richard Dale, executive director of ASU’s Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security. “All the pieces are in place, and this is an ideal time to move this technology into greater use…We are talking to potential partners to help us take the next step.”

The app could also prove to be extremely useful for law enforcement officials. Although a blood test can determine the level of marijuana in a person’s system, there isn’t a clear method of determining whether someone is too impaired to drive from marijuana use. This new technology is similar to some aspects of field sobriety tests for alcohol use and could help officers make more knowledgeable judgment calls on-site.

The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that marijuana was the second-most common substance associated with impaired driving after alcohol. Up to 14% of car accidents in the U.S. that resulted in injury or death came from drivers who tested positive for marijuana.

Similar sobriety-monitoring methods are already on the market for alcohol. A breathalyzer app called Breeze, which pairs to a smartphone via Bluetooth, allows users to blow into the device. If it’s determined they’re not fit to drive, the app places a call to Uber to give them a ride home.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.