Marijuana use increases risk of car accidents, study finds

A number of states have legalized recreational marijuana throughout the country. Over the past three years, eight states along with Washington D.C. have enacted such laws. Like alcohol use, marijuana impairs the user.

Unfortunately, states that have attempted to deter marijuana use while driving by enacting laws that set clear limitations on the amount of marijuana allowed within the driver's system have faced criticism. Most notably, a AAA study claimed that such limitations were not based in science and could lead to prosecution of innocent drivers. 

Marijuana use clearly impacts driving ability

Colorado provides a good example. Recreational marijuana use was legalized in Colorado in 2014. The Colorado Department of Transportation website states that any amount of cannabis consumption increases the risk of an accident. The state has attempted to reduce the risk of car accidents due to marijuana use by enacting clear laws. If a driver is suspected to be under the influence when stopped by police, a blood test may be requested, similar to the tests taken if alcohol use is suspected. If the driver refuses the test, driving privileges are revoked and additional penalties are applied. If the driver takes the test and five or more nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are found within the driver's blood, the driver will likely face criminal charges.

Unfortunately, even with this deterrent, the number of collision claims in Colorado since the legalization of marijuana has increased. A recent study in a piece by U.S. News finds that the crash rate went up by 2.7 percent after the legalization of marijuana. This is notable since the rate of these claims had gone through a steady decline prior to this wave of legalization.

What does this mean for states that do not have legalized marijuana use?

The study can serve a number of uses. States with legalized marijuana could use the data to support blood tests for THC for impaired drivers. States like Alabama that do not have legalized marijuana can use the data to fight such legislation or to pass laws with clear deterrents, like blood tests for impaired driving.

The study can also help support the contention that marijuana use contributed to an accident. This could be beneficial to anyone who was injured in a car accident and suspects the other driver was responsible due to impairment.

Those who are injured in such accidents are wise to seek legal counsel. An attorney with experience in vehicle accidents can seek damages to cover the costs resulting from the accident.

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