Marijuana Use Implicated in Rising Number of Washington Car Accidents
Data gathered by the Traffic Safety Commission shows that drivers who use marijuana are involved in a rising number of fatal accidents in Washington State, which legalized the drug for recreational use in 2012.
According to a report by Claims Journal, the number of drivers who were involved in deadly accidents that tested positive for marijuana usage doubled from 2013 to 2014, which was the first full year where marijuana was legally available for purchase in the state.
From 2010 to 2013, the number of drivers who tested positive for THC after being involved in fatal accidents ranged from 32 to 38 per year. That number increased to 75 in 2014, and roughly half of those drivers showed levels of marijuana intoxication that were above the state’s legal limit.
The report goes on to say that many drivers who had active THC in their bodies also tested positive for other substances like alcohol and cocaine.
While the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana increased recently, the number of drivers involved in fatal accidents who had been drinking beforehand decreased from 214 in 2009 to 144 in 2014.
How Can Marijuana Use Increase the Risk of Car Accidents?
Marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized in several states, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe for drivers to get behind the wheel while under the influence of THC. Drivers who are impaired after smoking or consuming edibles that contain THC experience many side effects that can significantly impair their abilities to drive safely, such as:
- Delayed reaction times
Safe driving requires the ability to react to things happening around you quickly and decisively. Much like alcohol, marijuana intoxication can prolong the time it takes for people to react to things like other drivers switching lanes, slamming on their brakes, or running a red light or stop sign. All it takes is being a split second too late on the gas, brake, or steering wheel to be involved in a serious accident.
- Highway hypnosis and sleepiness
Marijuana intoxication can cause drowsiness and sleepiness. When a driver uses marijuana and is already sleep-deprived or fatigued, their risk of falling asleep behind the wheel or falling victim to highway hypnosis can increase significantly. Safe driving requires remaining alert, cautious, and aware of your surroundings at all times—and marijuana intoxication can significantly impair all three of those requirements.
- Impaired ability to judge distances and speeds
A major part of safe driving is having the ability to accurately determine distances and speeds. Being able to tell how far away an approaching vehicle, a red light, or a turn is from your current location means that you have the ability to brake, shift lanes, and use your turn signal at the right times. Safely turning or merging into traffic also requires the ability to accurately judge speed. Marijuana intoxication can make it far more difficult to accurately judge both distance and speed, making impaired drivers more likely to cause accidents.
Marijuana use and possession is still illegal in Tennessee, and that means it’s also illegal to drive under the influence of this drug as well. Some people have the misconception that driving under the influence of marijuana is safe, but the side effects can make it as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol and prescription medications.
If you or someone you love was injured in an accident caused by someone who was impaired, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and more. Matt Hardin Law’s team of Lebanon car accident attorneys has no sympathy for impaired drivers, and we will do everything in our power to hold them responsible for your accident-related expenses. Get in touch with us today by dialing (615) 547-2683 or filling out a free online form.