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States With Legal Marijuana See Rise In Traffic Accidents

Nov 2, 2018 |

Even though legal marijuana is on the rise around the United States, there has also been a significant rise in traffic accidents in those states as well. Oregon is one state that is have trouble. They are seeing many more car accidents compared to the states that haven’t yet legalized marijuana. The studies aren’t proof that marijuana causes motor vehicle accidents, yet enough evidence is there to show a relationship between the two.

Before the legalization of marijuana, there wasn’t data to compare the relationship between legal marijuana use and car accidents. A specific study done by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety stated that car accidents were up 5.2% in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, since the legalization of marijuana. The study had differing factors including rural and urban driving, unemployment, driver ratings, seasonality, and weather.

Some people are stating there isn’t a connection between the legalization of marijuana in Oregon and higher rates of motor vehicle accidents. However, since Oregon had legalized marijuana later than some other states, there isn’t quite as much data to compare. With the studies that have been done in oregon, along with the other legalized marijuana states, there is a real connection. If you have gotten into a car accident as a result from using marijuana, you can get help in quitting weed.

Perception on the Use of Marijuana

Different people have varying perspectives on marijuana driving impairments. That is part of the reason the public eye and opinions are so mixed. However, surveys have shown, that there is certainly an increase in the number of impaired drivers due to marijuana use, since the legalization of this drug. Some of the impaired drivers even had children in their vehicle. There is still work to be done to help people understand how serious it is to drive while under the influence of marijuana. Fortunately, about 75% of adults do agree that there is an increased chance of getting in a crash when impaired by marijuana, so that is a good start.

An Oregon Healthy Teen Survey has shown that 48% of students in 11th grade, with a driver’s license, used marijuana within 3 hours or less before driving. The survey shows that boys had done this more than the girls. It is important to know that edibles take longer to affect the user than smoking. This should be kept in mind when considering driving times.

Some agencies have attempted to track fatal car crashes and DUIs in connection with marijuana use. The trend is a bit confusing and no specific conclusions are being drawn. However, it can be said that DUIs and car accident fatalities due to marijuana use have increased. It can not be stated whether states are finding better ways to identify marijuana use in drivers who had gotten a DUI or into a car accident or whether the numbers are truly higher.

Testing Urine or Blood

There are a specific set of challenges involved in trying to identify marijuana-impaired drivers. There is direct scientific evidence associated with alcohol use, since blood alcohol content is easier to test. There aren’t specific standards for marijuana use. Some states, such as Colorado and Washington, have identified a threshold for marijuana in the driver’s blood. However, Oregon is not joining in on that standard yet. Oregon is more focused on taking urine tests of the drivers to check for marijuana use.

Urine is an excellent option to prove a substance is inside one’s body, but it won’t prove someone is impaired. The substance stays in the system too long, so it won’t be a good enough indicator of how someone was affected while they were driving. Marijuana can stay in the urine for 30 days after using it. However, in Oregon, the legislators are hesitant to use blood testing when drivers get pulled over. Some states are using blood testing, but the state of Oregon is still unsure of it and think it crosses personal boundaries. It should also be known that a positive blood test must also coincide with psychological and behavioral testing that indicate impairment.

Studies have been done to show how many impaired drivers could pass different tests compared to non-impaired drivers. 56% of the non-impaired drivers passed the walk and turn test, while only 6% of marijuana-impaired drivers passed. 67% of the non-impaired drivers passed the one-leg stand test, while only 24% of marijuana-impaired drivers passed. Lastly, 49% of non-impaired drivers passed the finger-to-nose testing, while only 5% of marijuana impaired drivers passed.

Proving an Impairment

In the state of Oregon, drivers are run through psychological and physical tests to see if they are impaired by marijuana. If the police officer determines the driver to be impaired, they can be brought in for testing. Drug recognition experts are sometimes brought in to compare impairment levels to urine or blood testing levels. Throughout the past few years, more and more drug recognition evaluations are being done. When it comes to jurors, they can generally tell how a person under the influence of alcohol acts when impaired. The standards are a bit different with marijuana impairment.

Many professionals are saying it could still take many years to get the public more aware of marijuana-impaired driving. People understand the .08 legal limit of alcohol-impaired driving. Things aren’t as simple with marijuana impairments. For over 50 years, there have been testing, science-backed evidence, and social messaging revolving around alcohol use. Marijuana has also been around for a long time. However, it is only recently, that marijuana has become a more acceptable, legal substance in many places. More time is still needed to raise that awareness.

In the meantime, while many states have legal marijuana, and there is a rise in traffic accidents, it is best to avoid using marijuana on any day when you would be driving. Avoiding the drug altogether if you are driving is even better. If you have an addiction to the drug, whether you have medical marijuana or legal marijuana, you should still seek out treatment from a drug rehab center.

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