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A Look at the Impact of Marijuana-Impaired Driving

Traffic safety officials in Colorado have been reviewing data from the state patrol related to the potential impact that the legalization of marijuana has had on drivers traveling throughout the state. Even with the numbers that have been compiled thus far, the actual effect of marijuana-impaired drivers on the safety of area roadways still remains somewhat of a mystery.

A state trooper advised that although studies have been done in an attempt to determine the role of marijuana in roadway collisions, the sample size of participants used in the study was not large enough to provide sufficient information that could be used to make certain conclusions as to whether the legalization of marijuana has made Colorado roads less safe.

The Focus for CDOT

A spokesperson with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has noted that, despite the fact that marijuana-impaired driving can be equally as dangerous as drunk driving, the Department will continue to focus on drunk driving, as it is a “larger issue.” For instance, over one-third of the state’s 488 traffic fatalities in 2014 related to alcohol use; however, only 84 of the 684 drivers involved in fatal collisions had marijuana in their systems.

Unfortunately, as noted by CDOT, drivers who have used marijuana prior to getting behind the wheel of an automobile typically cannot determine their own impairment and practically any amount of marijuana can lead to a driver operating his or her motor vehicle while impaired.

For those who may not know, Colorado law states that drivers who are found to have 5 nanograms of the psychoactive part of marijuana (THC) per milliliter of blood can face prosecution for driving under the influence (DUI).  Still, no matter the level of THC in a driver’s blood, police officers are permitted to arrest drivers based on their own observations of impairment.

The Journal of Applied Toxicology published a study showing that when drivers are impaired by marijuana, their driving abilities differ considerably from those who drink and drive. Individuals who participated in the study used a driving simulator after consuming either alcohol, marijuana or a placebo.

What the Study Revealed About the Driving Behaviors of Marijuana-Impaired Drivers

The study revealed that the participants who had consumed marijuana tended to drive slower and with long following distances than normal. However, those drivers who were impaired by alcohol tended to participate in riskier behaviors, such as driving at higher than normal speeds.

Ultimately, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws stated that, based on study findings, the significant risks to drivers are “low to moderate” with respect to “acute cannabis intoxication,” specifically noting an odds ratio ranging between 1.2 and 1.4.

While it still appears that safety issues related to marijuana-impaired driving are still not clear, drivers who have been injured in automobile accidents are encouraged to seek legal help and guidance from knowledgeable Denver accident lawyers who are familiar with the laws related to drunk and drugged driving. Call Levine Law today to discuss your options and rights under the law.

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