In 2009, Colorado became one of the first states to allow the commercialization of medical marijuana, and in 2013, the state approved recreational use for the first time in history. Most people believe that legalization will benefit the state’s economy and medical community, but some are afraid that fewer restrictions will lead to more impaired drivers on the road.
Can Marijuana Affect My Driving Abilities?
Like many drugs, marijuana can impair judgment, affect a driver’s ability to concentrate and slow reaction time, all of which can impair safe driving. After alcohol, marijuana is the most common drug found in drivers’ systems after an accident.
A study conducted by the University of Colorado School of Medicine shows that fatal car accidents involving marijuana-positive drivers has increased dramatically since the drug was decriminalized.
In the first six months of 1994, 4.5 percent of fatal car crashes involved at least one marijuana-positive driver. In the last six months of 2011, that percentage had jumped to 10 percent.
While the increase may seem substantial, the study fails to address several key factors that could affect how researchers perceive the information. For instance, marijuana-positive drivers were determined by testing for metabolites that can linger in a driver’s systems for days or weeks.
While researchers can determine if the metabolites are present, they cannot prove the person was under the influence while they were driving or if the metabolites impacted driving skills. In addition, the study fails to note if the marijuana-driver was at fault for the accident.
A more important factor may be public awareness on the effects of “stoned” driving. A different study showed that the perception of marijuana risks has decreased in all age groups, so drivers may be unaware of how the drug can affect them.
Neither study proves conclusively that marijuana is causing harm. The researchers themselves admit that the results may simply indicate a more widespread use of marijuana than in previous years. In fact, total vehicle fatalities in Colorado have steadily declined since 2004.
More than anything, the studies show a need for better education and prevention programs to promote awareness and curb impaired driving. Just like prescription drugs and alcohol, drivers can only make responsible decisions when they have the correct information.
Drunk and “drugged” driving impairment causes thousands of injuries and deaths every year. When drivers make irresponsible decisions, innocent parties could suffer.
If an impaired driver caused your accident, Metier Law Firm can help you get justice. Our experienced attorneys know Colorado law, and we have been defending victims of reckless drivers for more than 20 years. Schedule your free consultation today.
[Did You Know: In 2014, 13 percent of impaired-driving violations in Colorado – roughly 228 citations – involved marijuana impairment.]
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