Researchers have found that drugged driving is on the rise, and in Washington, could be responsible for an increasing number of fatal accidents.
In December of 2012, Washington became one of the first states in the country to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. While some rejoiced in the legislation, researchers have found that it has had adverse and even deadly consequences. Anyone who lives or hits the road in the state should know what the laws are and why drugged driving is a serious problem.
Washington Initiative 502 permits adults who are 21 or older to use and possess marijuana for recreational purposes. It also created a per se limit for people who have marijuana in their systems while driving. The law states that someone who has 5 or more nanograms per milliliter of blood of THC in their system could be charged with driving while under the influence.
An increase in fatal accidents
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study to determine how the legalization of marijuana affected traffic accidents. Researchers reviewed fatal accidents that took place between 2010 and 2014, specifically analyzing marijuana involvement.
Of the 3,031 drivers who were involved in a fatal car accident over that timeframe, 303 were found to have had THC in their systems. Shockingly, the number of drivers in 2014 with THC in their systems roughly doubled the amount of similar drivers in 2013. Researchers also compared the proportion of drivers with detectable amounts of THC in their systems and found the same effect: The number in 2014 (17 percent) is roughly double the percentage in 2013 (8.3 percent).
Experts took a look at the trends over time to fairly assess the law's effect. They determined that prior to the initiative, the percentage of drivers who had THC in their blood remained relatively flat from year to year. After the law was passed, that number rose sharply by 9.7 percentage points per year.
A nationwide trend
More and more states are decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana in some form. This could be linked to drugged driving accidents across the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently conducted the National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use. The survey compared numbers taken from 2013-2014 with numbers from 2007. It revealed the following:
- The number of drivers who tested positive for at least one kind of illegal drug in their system rose from 12 percent in 2007 to more than 15 percent.
- The number of drivers who tested for any type of drug at all rose from 16.3 percent to 20 percent.
- The number of drivers with detectable evidence of marijuana rose from 8.6 percent to 12.6 percent.
These numbers are especially frightening when compared with how drugged driving has led to fatal car accidents in Washington.
Driving while impaired by any substance is dangerous and can be deadly. People who choose to engage in the behavior should be held accountable for their actions. Anyone with questions about this issue should speak to a personal injury attorney in Washington.