How has marijuana legalization impacted Washington drivers?
Marijuana became a legal substance in our state three years ago. Since then, the American Public Health Association, as well as many other organizations have been monitoring traffic statistics for any change in the rate of traffic accidents due to an increased legal usage of the drug.
Gathering data for these studies has proven difficult, as explained by the authors of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study that was published in 2015. In the case of alcohol, it is easy to determine whether or not a driver is under the influence by administering different tests that determine a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC). Through the use of a breathalyzer or other devices, authorities can determine how intoxicated a driver is. As of yet, there are no such test that can accurately measure marijuana usage in a driver who has been stopped by authorities. "Most psychoactive drugs are chemically complex molecules, whose absorption, action, and elimination from the body are difficult to predict,” reported the authors of the study.
Of all the studies that were done, marijuana legalization does not appear to have increased the overall rate of traffic accidents beyond a small margin. The results have varied between the studies, due to the specific data examined, but overall it seems that there has not been a significant increase in the rate of accidents in Washington and other legalized states when compared to states without legalization.
The study from the APHA showed no significant difference between auto accident rates in states with legalized marijuana when compared to states without. However, the NHTSA also conducted a study examining auto accident fatality statistics in Washington and other states where marijuana is legalized compared with state that have not passed legalization. Their study found a 3% increase in collision reports in the states where marijuana is legalized.
The main difference between these two studies above are the bodies of data that were examined. While the APHA focused primarily on fatality crash reports, the NHTSA examined overall auto collision data. Looking at these two studies, It can be concluded that, while marijuana usage has contributed to a slight rise in overall auto accidents, it has not increased the risk of a fatal auto accident.
High driving is impaired driving
Regardless of the legality of a substance, driving under the influence is strictly prohibited. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, even under the best of circumstances. If you do not watch the road in front of you, you might miss obstacles that could cause a collision, or you might veer out of your lane and into oncoming traffic, as we discussed last month. Marijuana inhibits the user’s reaction time and delays reflexes. Two circumstances which can greatly increase the risk of an accident. Just like with alcohol, or any other controlled substance, drivers who are high on the road are a danger to themselves as well as others.
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a driver under the influence of marijuana, contact Richard E. Lewis today. Our dedicated car accident attorneys will work to get you the help you need.