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Marijuana and Driving

Marijuana and Driving 

Marijuana and Driving

Marijuana and Driving – Over the past few decades, there has been an increased focus on making sure that people drive safely. As cars become more advanced, people drive faster, and the roads become more crowded, the risk of serious injury and death in an auto accident is just as high as ever. There are numerous serious injuries that someone could sustain in a car accident which include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Bone fractures
  • Internal organ damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Spinal cord injuries

Sometimes, these injuries result from the use of illicit substances while driving. Illicit and prescription medications have numerous side effects that can impair someone’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. According to a survey published by the United States government website Drug Abuse back in 2013:

  • About 25 million people who were over the age of 12 admitted to having used illicit drugs in the past month.
  • Close to 20 million of these people indicated that they had used marijuana in the past month.
  • Between 6 and 7 percent indicated that they had taken prescription medications in a way other than how they were prescribed.
  • Close to 2 percent of people admitted to using cocaine or hallucinogenic drugs.
  • Some people also indicated that they had used heroin in the past month.

All of these have potentially serious side effects that can impair someone’s ability to drive safely. This places not only themselves but other people on the road at risk as well. One drug that has received a lot of attention recently is marijuana. Because it is slowly being legalized for recreational use across the country, it is important to take a look at how marijuana can impact someone’s ability to drive a motor vehicle safely.

A Local Case: Marijuana and Driving

A recent news article was published detailing the trauma of a young woman who suffered injuries as a result of an auto accident involving a driver who was impaired by marijuana. The woman, who is campaigning for a repeat term as a state controller, was riding in a California state vehicle when she was involved in a serious collision. The impaired driver rear-ended the California state vehicle and caused the woman to lose consciousness at the scene of the accident. Emergency medical personnel were called to the scene and transported both parties to a hospital. The intoxicated driver sustained polytrauma and required extensive medical care prior to being booked on charges of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. He would later be released on bail. The woman has since made the issue of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana a central subject of her campaign platform.

Chronic Medical Problems Stemming from the Accident

Since the accident, the state controller has tried to spread the word regarding the issues related to legalizing recreational marijuana. There has been a trend in the direction of cannabis legalization. There has also been significant national concern surrounding the issues related to cannabis in driving. The state controller cited a study released by the Governors Highway Safety Association, which found that:

  • Close to half of all drivers killed in accidents in 2016 tested positive for some form of drugs in their system.
  • This number is about twice as high as it was in 2006.

The controller also cited studies from other states indicating that there was a significant increase in drivers testing positive for marijuana following an auto accident.

  • In Colorado, another state legalizing recreational marijuana, about 20 people were killed in accidents in 2014 and 2015 with marijuana in their system
  • This number jumped to 51 in 2016

The state controller has continued to struggle with chronic medical problems. She suffered extensive bruises as a result of the accident and since then, she has had lingering medical complications. These include:

  • Chronic back spasms that impair mobility and make it difficult to find a comfortable position.
  • Chronic headaches that are made worse by loud noises, bright lights.
  • Being forced to limit her time in front of computer screens and TV screens, which make it difficult to keep up with her job.

Unfortunately, she is far from the only person to have been impacted by an accident involving a driver who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. She is lucky to have survived the accident because there are many people every year who are killed by impaired drivers. Now, with the push to legalize marijuana, there are many new studies coming up regarding marijuana and its impact on someone’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.

A Medical Review: Marijuana and Side Effects

Medical professionals have explored the role of cannabis and driving in research studies in the past. Recently, a research study was published during which professionals tested people’s driving ability after being exposed to marijuana. In the study, researchers visited the Pub Med database and located dozens of studies that have explored the role that marijuana plays in driving. These studies spanned multiple decades and the researchers combined the data to create one, large database. Then, the researchers performed a variety of statistical analyses on the data to look for trends. What they found was that:

  • Those who used marijuana immediately prior to driving experienced a significant decline in their driving skills.
  • Marijuana was demonstrated to significantly slow people’s reflexes, which can impact their ability to react to red lights, stop signs, and changing road conditions.
  • People who used marijuana prior to driving were significantly more fatigued, placing them at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel.

All of these side effects can make it easier for someone to fall asleep or miss changing road conditions, placing them at significant risk of being involved in an auto accident. This places not only themselves but also other drivers on the road at risk.

Watch YouTube Video: Drivers Stoned on Marijuana Test Their Driving Skills. Marijuana and Driving. This video demonstrates how drivers operate a motor vehicle while stoned on marijuana.

Hurdles for Marijuana Legalization

Multiple states have already legalized recreational marijuana. However, people should not operate a motor vehicle if they are impaired by marijuana. The results of the study above bear this out. Furthermore, this is one of the largest hurdles for legalizing recreational marijuana across the country. Some of the important points to remember include:

  • Many people have compared using marijuana to drinking and driving.
  • The legal limit for consuming alcohol and operating a motor vehicle is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08.
  • Unfortunately, there is no equivalent test for marijuana concentration.
  • Therefore, without a quick and easy way to quantify how impaired someone is in relationship to the amount of marijuana they have been exposed to, people should not operate a vehicle after using marijuana in any shape or form.

Hopefully, sometime soon, researchers will find a way to quantify marijuana usage in relationship to its impact on driving. For now, this remains perhaps the largest hurdle preventing the legalization of marijuana across the country.

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Sacramento Car Accident Lawyers

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Car Accident Lawyer. Driving while impaired by recreational medications can cause major car accidents. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a car accident, call me at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly legal advice.

I am honored to be a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

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