The legalization of marijuana in some states is among a number of factors that has led to an increase in “drugged driver” automobile accidents in the United States, as has previously been reported by the Chicago Tribune.
According to data collected for a study by the Governors Highway Safety Council, the number of accidents in which drugged drivers are involved has continued to increase to the point where now drugs are playing as big a role in causing accidents as drunk driving. The study found that in 2005 29% of drivers who were killed in a wreck had tested positive for drugs in their system, while the comparable statistic in 2013 was 39.9%. This represents a nearly 11% increase and is now equivalent to the number of drivers killed in car accidents who are found with alcohol in their systems.
A number of other states have either and it increasingly appears that the trend is towards the legalization of marijuana in the United States. The use of marijuana is now legal in some form or another in at least 23 states as well as the District of Columbia. This includes Illinois, which allows the use of medical marijuana by some eligible patients as part of a pilot program approved by Illinois lawmakers that is scheduled to run up through 2018.
Other states have considered or are considering ballot measures that would allow the use of marijuana in some form or another. Eventually, it is reasonable to assume that it will be legal to use marijuana in the entire United States in some form or another. (It is important to note, however, that federal law still prohibits the use of marijuana in even those states that have passed laws permitting its use, but federal prosecutors generally have neglected to pursue criminal charges against individuals who have taken advantage of the new state laws permitting the drug’s use).
Although the Governors Highway Safety Council report does note that some studies have been inconclusive on whether the decriminalization of marijuana has led to an increase in accidents in states in which marijuana has been legalized, it highlights the fact that other studies have been to the contrary.
For instance, a study found that the number of accidents in Colorado, one of the states in which the use of recreational marijuana is legal, found that the number of automobile accidents involving fatalities in which a driver tested positive for marijuana had increased by 4% since the state first legalized the use of recreational marijuana.
This is consistent with the study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Council, which conducted personal interviews with marijuana users in two states that have recently decriminalized recreational marijuana use-Washington State and Colorado. Somewhat alarmingly, these interviews found that a significant number of drivers believed that the use of marijuana had no effect on their ability to drive and, in fact, many believed that the regular use of marijuana actually improved their ability to drive.
These drivers actually believed that using marijuana before driving was different than driving under the influence of alcohol because they could compensate for any effects on their driving caused by the use of marijuana by, for example, driving more slowly or allowing a greater distance between them and the driver in front of them than they otherwise would do.
It is important to note that it is still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana in all of these states as well as the rest of the United States, including in Illinois. Accordingly, even though the drivers in the GHSA may believe that the use of marijuana makes them better drivers or has no effect on their ability to drive, a motorist who operates a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana is still breaking the law, whether he or she does so in Colorado, Washington State, or Illinois.
If you, a loved one or someone you know has been injured in an accident caused by a drugged driver, contact a Chicago personal injury attorney right away. Many cases involving personal injuries suffered in a car accident go to court, and you’ll want an experienced attorney by your side when negotiating with the driver who hit you and his or her insurance company. Call Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900 to learn how our personal injury attorneys can help you or your loved one after an auto accident.