WWLP was recently back at it, this time modeling the latest pair of stylish impairment goggles being pushed around the state
There are few subjects on which you will receive less factual information from mainstream news chumps than stoned driving. In nearly all reports, the premise is the same—driving while high on weed must be very bad, just like drunk driving, because obviously, it just has to be, because people who get high are irresponsible monsters. From there, reporters seek any way possible to support said baseline idea, no matter where the facts lead them. Most of the time, they don’t seek or include any research at all, but rather follow and repeat misinformation foisted on them by police and state officials.
For some reason, the producers at WWLP in Springfield are particularly prone to embarrassing coverage of this topic. Back in 2018, we noticed their promoting a driving suit developed by Ford that, when worn, allegedly reveals to a person what it would feel like to drive drunk and stoned. As we noted, they sent someone to try the suit on while also wearing high heels, presumably in case the other impairments weren’t enough, and to share the details of her experience. The result was as ridiculous as it’s predictable—the hack failed a field sobriety test, and even though the results obviously had nothing at all to do with cannabis, the story claimed that “Ford developed impaired driving suits to simulate driving … while under the influence of drugs like marijuana.”
Recently, WWLP was back at it, this time modeling the latest pair of stylish impairment goggles being pushed around the state. It’s one of those cutesy participatory stories, in which the reporter tries the gear on at the State House, tries to walk in a straight line, and reports back to the public that it was indeed a doozy. But with zero recognition that, again, the trial she has just participated in had nothing at all to do with cannabis, its effects, or anything else purportedly at issue.
As spineless prop reporting tends to do, this latest promotion of aspirational eyewear raises more questions than it offers answers. WWLP quotes Cannabis Control Commissioner Kimberly Roy saying, “the science [on stoned driving] is still somewhat unsettled,” but doesn’t go any further in examining the argument that Massachusetts should invest in these contraptions for driver’s ed students. If they spent five minutes investigating, they’d see that such a comment indicates just how constipated Roy and everybody else selling this story is. Even worse, they’d see how devastating the existing research is for the hard line against stoned driving, like the study from 2016 which notes:
Subjects dosed on marijuana showed reduced mean speeds, increased time driving below the speed limit and increased following distance during a car following task. Alcohol, in contrast, was associated with higher mean speeds (over the speed limit), greater variability in speed, and spent a greater percent of time driving above the speed limit. Marijuana had no effect on variability of speed. In the combined alcohol and marijuana condition it appeared that marijuana mitigated some of the effects found with alcohol by reducing the time spent above the speed limit.
Or this finding from a 2010 study that is also recognized in multiple National Highway Traffic Safety Administration surveys:
Many studies have not shown impairment on these psychomotor tasks, cognitive and executive functions as have shown statistically significant impairments. It is not clear why this is the case. It may stem from different THC doses, different time lags between doses and testing or driving, differences in the tasks used to assess the effects, tolerance developed through frequent use, and the different dependent measurement employed and their relative sensitivity to small effects
Unlike anti-stoned driving crusaders, I am hardly an extremist on this front. I do not support or encourage driving under the influence of any drugs, legal or otherwise. Only a fool would call for such behavior, since it is illegal and perhaps not a phenomenal idea for everyone to take a rip and jump behind the wheel. I’m just exhausted with state leaders and cops cherry picking stats, crashes, and gullible prohibitionist cosplay reporters in order to alarm the public about something that is not a pressing problem.
To suggest otherwise is to report the story with blinders on.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.