A research team from the University of Iowa (UI) is investigating the effects of cannabis consumption on drivers by observing data from The National Advanced Driving Simulator, a paid study that examines driving and impairment while under the influence.
Data gathered from this study will be used to develop an app that will test levels of cannabis impairment. The app will be developed by Advanced Brain Monitoring Inc., a California tech company. Timothy Brown, director of drug driving research at UI, told The Daily Iowan that with alcohol, there is a fine line between detecting impairment and the amount of alcohol in the blood. “The goal is to try and do the same sort of thing on the cannabis front,” Brown continued. “We want to know when someone is impaired so we can differentiate somebody who used cannabis two days ago, but it might show up on their system, versus somebody who used it an hour ago and is not safe to drive.”
Brown believes that this is important research to conduct because up until now, there has not been a substantial amount of research on how cannabis can impair drivers. With alcohol, no such testing needs to be done because the correlation between impairment and alcohol blood content is clear—but with cannabis, it’s not so cut-and-dry.
Subjects will participate in a simulated test drive while researchers review their physiologic responses, which includes heart rate, eye focus, reaction times and overall brain activity, according to The Daily Iowan. “The brain is a very complex organ,” UI Executive Associate Dean Gary Milavetz said. “The drugs change how you respond and how quickly you respond and how you perceive things.” Participants will be paid $380 to successfully complete the required tasks.
Although recreational cannabis is not legal in Iowa, these researchers obtained federal approval through a license from Gary Gaffey, Emeritus Associate Professor of Psychiatry and a key researcher on this project.