Fatal Crashes Involving Drivers Who Test Positive for Marijuana on the Rise
Thinking about getting high and driving? Think again. A study released this week by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed the data of fatal crashes of individuals in Washington state testing positive for THC and found that the results have doubled since the legalization of marijuana in November 2012.
This alarming number suggests that the number of THC positive drivers is extremely high. According to their research, “between 2008 and 2012 – the five-year period before the drug was legal – an estimated 8.8% of Washington drivers involved in fatal crashes were positive for THC. That rate rose to 18% between 2013 and 2017.” As crash risk increases and marijuana laws become more lenient, it’s important to always be alert behind the wheel and know the dangers of driving high.
It is a scientific fact that marijuana has mind altering compounds that can affect your cognitive functions in both short and long term. Common levels of impairment frequently reported by marijuana users include, delayed response times, uncontrollable eye movement or fixation on objects (basic oculomotor deficit), poorer verbal memory and loss of executive functioning skills (flexible thinking and self control).
The effect that cannabis has on the central nervous system (CNS) can put drivers in a state of hypnosis. According to Greg Colburn, a Seattle personal injury attorney, “Highway hypnosis can put drivers in a state of mental detachment. When a driver falls into any type of altered state, whether driving high or drunk, the likeliness of a crash increases significantly.”
Putting Others at Risk
A common misconception, especially among adolescents, is that it is far safer to drive stoned than it is to drive drunk. When you drive high, you are not only putting the safety of yourself and passengers at risk, you are taking the lives of others on the road into your own hands as well.
While crash data has found that a drunk driver is ten times more likely to cause a fatal accident than a stoned one, Yale psychiatrist Richard Sewell reviewed the academic literature on driving while intoxicated and found that both alcohol and cannabis use are linked to an increase in motor vehicle fatalities. When combined, the use of alcohol and weed behind the wheel can create a driver who is reckless, too fast and even unaware that they are impaired.
Drive High, Get a DUI
Generally, the penalties for a marijuana-related DUI are the same as those for an alcohol-related DUI conviction. Consequences might include license suspension, fine up to $2,000, up to a year in jail (this is very rarely the case for first time offenders), probation and a requirement to join a substance abuse program. Being arrested for driving high can have serious repercussions on your career, personal life and wallet. Avoid putting you and others lives at risk, take an Uber or Lyft instead.