As More States Legalize Marijuana, Concern Rises Over Fatal Marijuana DUI Accidents
More states have passed legislation legalizing medical marijuana, and both Colorado and Washington state have passed legal recreational marijuana laws. However, in states with some form of legalized marijuana, police have documented more marijuana DUIs, which has raised concerns over the traffic safety hazards caused by people driving while under the influence of drugs.
Studies show that marijuana slows decision-making, decreases peripheral vision, and impedes multitasking, which are all necessary skills while driving. However, marijuana affects users differently than alcohol, according to some researchers, who suggest that those driving while high are more aware they are impaired and will driver slower as a consequence.
“We see the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington as a wake-up call for all of us in highway safety,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices. “We don’t know enough about the scope of marijuana-impaired driving to call it a big or small problem. But anytime a driver has their ability impaired, it is a problem.”
Colorado, Washington state, and Montana have all passed legislation to define marijuana DUI as 5 parts per billion of THC in the blood. In 2013, the first year of legal recreational use in Washington, the state saw a 25% jump in marijuana DUI arrests.
Researchers from Columbia University compared drivers who tested positive for marijuana with state drug and alcohol tests for drivers killed in other DUI crashes, and found that pot use alone increased the driver’s risk of causing a fatal marijuana DUI crash by 80%.
However, the Columbia study was reportedly flawed, because the researchers used data from states where not all drivers killed in crashes are tested for drug use. A similar study, which used results from 9 states that test 80% of drivers involved in fatal crashes for drugs and alcohol found that drivers who were sober but tested positive for marijuana use were slightly less likely to cause a crash than drivers who tested negative for all drugs and alcohol.
“We were expecting a huge impact,” said Eduardo Romano, lead author of the study, conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, “and when we looked at the data from crashes we’re not seeing that much.”
“If states legalize marijuana, they must set clear limits for impairment behind the wheel and require mandatory drug testing following a crash,” said Deborah Hersman, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. “Right now we have a patchwork system across the nation regarding mandatory drug testing following highway crashes.”
The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Marijuana DUI, or DUID, Charges
Although South Carolina legislators recently legalized one form of medical marijuana, marijuana use for any other reason is illegal, and a DUID or marijuana DUI can have very serious charges. The penalties for a conviction of driving under the influence of drugs are identical to the consequences of a DUI conviction in South Carolina. If you are pulled for driving under the influence of prescription drugs or medication, you may be asked to submit to a screening test in which your urine is screened for the presence of drugs.
If you face DUI charges, whether it is your first charge, or felony DUI, you may feel alone and afraid. Being charged with driving under the influence of illegal drugs does not automatically mean that you are guilty or that the prosecution does not have to prove its case. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm have helped people facing DUI charges since 1996. We offer free, confidential consultations. Contact us for help today. 803.252.4800