The legalization of marijuana here in Colorado remains a controversial topic in many circles. Some researchers are looking at the connection between legalized marijuana use and fatal motor vehicle accidents. The bigger question is how marijuana affects an individual’s driving.
Some studies found that there is a correlation between the amount of THC in an individual’s blood and driving ability. Like alcohol, marijuana can reduce a driver’s reaction time, motor coordination and judgment. However, since THC can remain in a person’s system long after ingestion, research regarding the causal connection between marijuana use and fatal accidents could be misleading.
It is possible that the higher the THC level in a person’s blood, the higher the risk of being involved in a crash. Some research accounts for this by saying that marijuana users tend to combine alcohol with marijuana. This could mean that an accident is more connected to alcohol impairment rather than drug impairment.
A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed no measurable increase in the risk of causing an accident, fatal or otherwise. The study considered drivers’ race, gender and age, along with the presence of alcohol. The only real certainty is that, if a driver causes an accident and is found to have used marijuana shortly before driving, the accident might have been preventable.
Drivers who are high on marijuana when fatal motor vehicle accidents occur should face the consequences of their actions. Criminal charges could be filed by Colorado prosecutors, along with civil actions from the families of those who died at their hands. Since THC remains in a person’s system, investigating the events that led up to the crash becomes crucial. If the evidence shows that a driver was high, it could help establish negligence in a wrongful death claim.
Source: drugabuse.gov, “Does marijuana use affect driving?“, Accessed on March 20, 2017