LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — While the debate to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Pennsylvania continues, another debate of sorts has surfaced. That debate centers on the use of cannabis and its connection to driving safety.

A recent study is a real eye-opener when it comes to cannabis consumption and driving under the influence.

It has safety and government officials taking notice and taking action.

Taking DUI seriously is a health, safety, and law enforcement goal that stretches well beyond Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

But according to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, only 69% of Americans polled consider driving within an hour of consuming cannabis to be very or extremely dangerous.

Some even believe it improves their skills behind the wheel which safety experts say raises a serious question.

“How do we reduce that, that myth that I’m a better driver? I slow down. I zone out on the road,” stated Dr. Darrin Grondel, NASID Director; VP of Traffic Safety & Government Relations, Responsibility.org

“Driving takes, you know, tremendous attention. It does take skill. We become it’s kind of a routine thing that we do over and over again but we need to be sharp. We need to be able to react quickly,” explained Pam Shadel Fischer, Sr. Director of External Engagement, Governors Highway Safety Administration.

What’s alarming is the percentage of Americans who believe cannabis is a serious DUI risk is more than 25% lower than those who say exceeding the legal blood alcohol level and driving is very or extremely dangerous.

“Yeah, I don’t believe that’s good because your motor skills are slow. You lose your control, your motor controls,” said Gregory Mallon, of Wilkes-Barre.

Tony Labracio has a medical marijuana card and uses cannabis.

“I wouldn’t drive with marijuana.” Hiller asks, “Why?” Tony says, “Because it’s a whole different effect. I wouldn’t trust myself,” explained Labracio.

The Governors Highway Safety Association, Responsibility.org, and the National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving have teamed up for a playbook for states like Pennsylvania to encourage safe driving after cannabis consumption.

Helping people understand the dangers of cannabis and driving is at the center of it, but so is leaning on the cannabis industry to change the culture.

“We need to know more about the industry. We need to do more research. We need to have more understanding and we need to have a collaborative partnership here because we do not want to see a substitution or an increase, you know, in injuries or fatalities,” stated Stephen Erni, Executive Director, PA DUI Association.

That playbook called ‘Cannabis Consumers and Safe Driving: Responsible use Messaging’ encourages dedicated funding for traffic safety programs taken from a portion of cannabis sales tax revenue.

To learn more you can find the full PDF file link for the playbook.