A Swinburne University of Technology study into the effects of medicinal cannabis on driving ability has received A$358,980 from the federal government’s Road Safety Innovation Fund.
Led by Dr Amie Hayley and Professor Luke Downey from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, the study will be conducted within Swinburne’s Drugs and Driving Research unit.
Dr Hayley said the increasing availability of medicinal cannabis meant “solutions to identify and reduce cannabis-impaired driving are urgently needed to promote traffic safety”.
She added: “Through our research, we hope to uncover potential solutions to mitigate the risk of road trauma for these patients and all road users.”
However, Professor Downey said there is “no definitive legal, clinical or road safety recommendation as to the length of time that medicinal cannabis products can be detected, nor whether the use of these products contribute to increased risk of traffic collision”.
He added: “It is critical to quantify the potential risk these road users take when they get behind the wheel and develop methods to protect these vulnerable patients, as well as all road users.”
Dr Hayley said the team will examine the ability of technology such as driver monitoring systems to protect vulnerable road users “who may make the mistake of operating a vehicle when the medication is impairing their ability to control it”.
Driver monitoring systems monitor and detect a driver’s state and collect information to make an instant assessment about their capacity to drive safely. The technology has already been effective in detecting and alerting drivers who are tired or distracted by creating a sound to re-engage them.
Professor Downey said: “Using our high-fidelity driving simulator and eye-monitoring technologies, we will test the relationship between eye movements and driver behaviour to better understand the impact of medicinal cannabis use on driving performance in patients, as well as healthy adults.”
The Road Safety Innovation Fund is awarded by the Office of Road Safety and supports innovative projects designed to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on Australian roads.