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Traffic Deaths From Marijuana Are on the Rise, HIDTA Report Says

The effects of marijuana usage on driving have been discussed by lawmakers and safety advocates all across the country. In Colorado, the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy’s program, The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), released a report regarding marijuana use in Colorado. The report is based on statistics from numerous studies that focused on highway transportation stats, investigations by the police and drug usage. The ultimate goal of the report is to demonstrate the general effect of the state’s legalization of marijuana (both medical and recreational).

Report Shows Increase in Traffic Fatalities Stemming from Marijuana

Information from the report states that between 2013 and 2015, traffic fatalities related to marijuana usage went up 48 percent since recreational use was legalized in Colorado in 2013.

More specifically, since 2013, the number of vehicle operators who tested positive for marijuana and ultimately lost their lives in an accident increased 67 percent. This is very concerning, as just four years earlier in 2009, only 10 percent of fatal traffic accidents involved drivers who tested positive for marijuana. In 2015, that number has doubled to 21 percent; however, only 49 percent of drivers who died in accidents were even tested for impairment, with one out of four drivers testing positive for marijuana.

There were 115 marijuana-related traffic accidents in 2015 and of those, 3 were bikers, 75 were automobile operators, 20 were passengers and 17 were pedestrians. The report also noted that in 2015, the Colorado State Patrol had 1,000 fewer DUI/DUID prosecutions than in 2014.

What Does This Mean for Drivers and Passengers in Colorado and Elsewhere?

The report findings state that an individual’s blood level may not demonstrate the effects of THC (which is the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana) on his or her central nervous system (which includes one’s ability to operate an automobile safely). This is because THC isn’t distributed throughout the body in the same way as alcohol.

Additionally, when a person is impaired by marijuana, such impairment can last for at least two to four hours after the drug has been taken; yet, the individual’s THC in the blood quickly drops to low levels. When the drug is taken orally, the body absorbs it slowly; however, the person taking marijuana into his or her system can still be substantially impaired.

The director of traffic safety advocacy and research at AAA has said that, “marijuana use in driving is a growing, contributing factor to fatal crashes. It’s a highway safety problem that we should all be concerned about.”

If you or someone you love has been involved in a crash in which the at-fault driver may have been impaired by marijuana or any other drug (or alcohol), contact a Denver accident attorney as soon as possible. At Levine Law, we are prepared to help you get justice in your case and we will work hard to obtain the just compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact us today to discuss the specifics of your case.

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