YORKVILLE – The dangers of drinking and driving are well known. Less appreciated by the public are the risks associated with driving under the influence of marijuana.
Members of the Kendall County Board have a better understanding of marijuana’s effects after they strapped on a pair of special goggles at their regular meeting on Sept. 20.
A supply of the googles is being donated to the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office for use as an educational tool.
The donation comes from AAA, the national federation of auto clubs that provides roadside assistance and other services to motorists.
The goggles, branded as “The Fatal Vision,” simulate the visual distortions of shapes and colors and the changes in depth perception for someone who is under the influence of marijuana.
Charlene Sligting, a traffic safety program manager for AAA, told board members that educating the public about marijuana’s effects on drivers is more important than ever since the legalization of recreational cannabis in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020.
“This is a tool to help youth understand what it’s like to be under the influence,” Kendall County Undersheriff Bobby Richardson said. “It’s a great resource for officers to get into the schools.”
AAA provided the sheriff’s office with four sets of the goggles, valued at $300 each, complete with the colored stress balls, Richardson said.
The sheriff’s office will use the goggles at school events, career fairs and the annual National Night Out on Crime event to educate the public, Richardson said.
Board members reacted immediately with laughing surprise to the dramatic change in visual perception when they put on the goggles.
When Richardson held up three stress balls colored red, orange and black, those wearing the goggles were unable to identify the colors.
Sligting told board members that everyone is impaired differently when under the influence of marijuana.
THC, the active chemical compound in marijuana, disrupts key parts of the brain that affect the perception of time, concentration, movement, memory and coordination.
Drivers under the influence of marijuana often cannot accurately perceive the traffic environment, make good decisions or take appropriate action, according to AAA.
The crash risk for a driver who has used marijuana is roughly double, according to some studies cited by AAA.
Moreover, research indicates that drivers in crashes who tested positive for THC were three to seven times more likely to have caused the collision.
Sligting noted that the delivery system used to ingest marijuana, whether it is smoking, vaping or edibles, affects how quickly the user will experience the peak effects of the drug.
For those who smoke cannabis, peak effects usually occur within 10 to 30 minutes, while those ingesting gummies or other edibles experience the effects perhaps an hour later.
Sligting said users may not feel that their driving abilities are compromised when under the influence of marijuana, but the goggles clearly demonstrate otherwise to a sober person.
“Drivers who are high are unable to accurately assess their own performance,” Sligting said.
Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis told the board that through testing, police can detect whether a person has marijuana in his system and whether he is under its influence.