In November 2016, marijuana was officially legalized in the state of California. Adults over the age of 21 are able to purchase or give away up to an ounce of cannabis or eight grams of concentrated cannabis. With an influx of retail marijuana shops throughout the state, it’s important that drivers understand the risks associated with driving high.
Effects of marijuana on drivers
Like alcohol, marijuana can cause delays in reaction time, poor judgment, and impaired motor functions. According to two European studies, drivers with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their blood, were at double the risk of being involved in a fatal crash than drivers under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. In addition, the effects of THC can last up to four hours after using marijuana.
Determining whether or not THC is a factor in a crash, however, can be challenging. The substance often stays in a person’s system for weeks after intoxication. But research has found that those involved in crashes while under the influence of marijuana were three to seven times more likely to have caused the crash.
How likely will high drivers be caught?
According to recent research by the American Automobile Association (AAA), nearly 70 percent of Americans believe that those who drive while high are unlikely to get caught by police. Study findings estimate that 14.8 million drivers admitted to driving within one hour of using marijuana within the past 30 days of being polled.
According to Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgment. Yet, many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving.”
Yang continues, “It is important for everyone to understand that driving after recently using marijuana can put themselves and others at risk.”
The study also found that seven percent of participants believe that driving under the influence of marijuana is safer than driving drunk, drugged, or drowsy.
While many participants didn’t recognize the risk of driving high, Jake Nelson, AAA Director of Traffic Safety and Advocacy, thinks otherwise, “It’s time to face the facts. Any driver who gets behind the wheel high can be arrested and prosecuted.”
Detecting marijuana impairment has presented challenges to law enforcement. But Nelson says, “Law enforcement officials are getting more sophisticated in their methods for identifying marijuana-impaired drivers and the consequences are not worth the risk.”
Law enforcement has stepped up their efforts to recognize drug-impaired drivers with two key programs:
- The Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE)
- The 50-State Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program
Currently, there are more than 87,000 ARIDE and 8,300 DECP officers stepping up patrols across the US. In addition, there are 30 percent more Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) on US roads than there were in 2013.
Marijuana is reported as the most commonly used substance by drugged drivers – with 20 percent more arrests being made since 2015.
AAA cautions drivers to avoid getting behind the wheel after using marijuana. If you or a loved one were injured in a crash caused by an impaired driver, the car accident attorneys at Clancy & Diaz, LLP would like to discuss your legal options with you.
We investigate crashes like yours and fight to hold negligent drivers accountable. To learn how we can help, contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation.