Category: Auto Accidents

How Legalized Marijuana is Impacting Car Accidents


marijuana_crash_riskAs a country, America is facing an interesting turning point right now. Some states like Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana, a drug that until recently was classified into the same category as other very hard and dangerous drugs. Legalization of a previously taboo drug has caused immense controversy for moral and ethical reasons, but it is now making waves in the realm of safety as well.

In Washington state, 8 percent of fatal car accidents were caused by drivers high on marijuana before the drug was legalized says Bellingham auto accident attorney Joe Bartek. Now that it’s legal to use marijuana in the state, traffic fatalities due to stoned drivers have more than doubled to 17 percent. This is a startling statistic that has many wondering how exactly stoned driving can be quantified.

Drunk driving can be quickly identified using a breathalyzer, but the same direct evaluation does not currently exist to test drivers who may be high on marijuana. Since Washington is one of only a handful of states where the drug is legal, and since it has been legal for such a short amount of time, the entire process is essentially one extended experiment. Law enforcement and government officials are working to determine the best way to address this growing problem.

When drunk driving became a major problem, experts were able to use laboratory tests to prove that alcohol raised blood alcohol level and impaired driving ability, but similar tests done regarding marijuana have not provided such clear cut results. Smoking pot causes a high because of the chemical component THC, but high levels of THC in the blood cannot be conclusively linked to impaired driving.

As AAA’s CEO explained, “There is understandably a strong desire by both lawmakers and the public to create legal limits for marijuana impairment, in the same manner as we do with alcohol. In the case of marijuana, this approach is flawed and not supported by scientific research. It’s simply not possible today to determine whether a driver is impaired based solely on the amount of the drug in their body.”

At the end of the day, regardless of this quandary, driving under the influence of marijuana, legal or not, can be deadly. From bike to car to Bellingham truck accidents. As lawmakers determine how to best identify high driving, victims of marijuana-related car crashes are working to seek compensation in a complicated and controversial arena.