With regards to impaired driving, alcohol consumption is still the number one cause of road accidents and deaths. As states throughout the nation relax laws on the use of marijuana, the impact on the roads is unclear. Will more users pose threats to innocent drivers and civilians? Has legalizing marijuana caused more road accidents? How will policy makers, lawyers and law enforcement deal with incidents where marijuana is a factor?
Here are the Facts about Marijuana and Driving:
- The number of drivers with marijuana in their system grew nearly 50 percent from 2007 to 2014, according to a national roadside survey.
- A recent study of high school seniors showed that one in eight admitted to using marijuana before driving.
- Nationwide in 2009, 3,952 fatally injured drivers were tested for the presence of drugs; 18 percent tested positive. [Download report]
However, studies analyzing the effects of driving under the influence of marijuana have been marked by contradictory research and imprecise measurement. Read the details of the study an the results in our monthly public safety newsletter, Let America Know.
Meanwhile, the number of traffic fatalities involving marijuana-stoned drivers increased in Washington and Colorado since both states legalized the recreational use of the drug, according to two recent reports. The percentage of drivers who used pot within hours of a fatal crash in Washington nearly doubled from 2013 to 2014, according to a just-published AAA study. A similar increase was recorded in Colorado with 10 percent of drivers in fatal accidents testing positive for marijuana in 2011 versus 5.9 percent in 2009.
Which brings up the next question – how will lawmakers define marijuana intoxication? How much recreational usage in these states is considered “OK”? The uncertainty surrounding the intoxicating effects of marijuana is reflected in the patchwork of state laws defining driving “under the influence” of drugs. Some states follow a zero tolerance standard while others set a legal THC limit expressed in nanograms (one-billionth of a gram) per milliliter of blood. In others, impairment is inferred based on the circumstances rather than defined by blood THC levels.
Know the laws in your state. Review what your local law says about marijuana and driving.
This will certainly remain an evolving topic as more states change their laws with marijuana consumption. As with alcohol consumption, we advocate on behalf of safety. Read more about this topic, stay informed about driving and marijuana, and exercise defensive driving on the roads. For timely consumer safety news, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter.
Should you or anyone you know need legal representation from a road accident, injury or death, please contact our reliable, experienced team in Mount Pleasant, SC.