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Are DUIs in Pot-Legal States Increasing?

If you have been involved in a an SUV or car accident in the Tampa Bay area call Tampa Personal Injury Attorney, Martin J. Hernandez at 813-755-9500
Pot Weed Cannabis DUI Driving Under Influence Lawyer

States are struggling with the rise in cases of individuals driving stoned. There is not a National definition for marijuana-impaired driving and Law enforcement lacks tools to catch people driving high.

Have the number of DUIs increased as a result of legalized marijuana?

Car crashes in the first three states to legalize recreational marijuana have soared as law enforcement and regulators struggle to define driving under the influence of marijuana.

Washington, Colorado, and Oregon saw a combined 5.2% increase in the rate of police-reported crashes after legalizing recreational marijuana, compared with neighboring states where such sales are illegal, according to data compiled and analyzed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Will legalized marijuana increase my insurance rates?

Possibly, yes. Auto-insurance collision claims in the three states have also increased a combined 6% since legalization, compared with neighboring western states without legal weed, the Highway Loss Data Institute found. Analysts controlled for variables such as driver population, car model, weather, and driving environment. While auto insurers use DUI information to set prices, the available data generally doesn’t distinguish by substance. Until it does, marijuana use or the fact someone lives in an area where pot is legal won’t affect rates. But anytime insurance companies can legally increase rates, expect a rate increase.

What’s the most dangerous type of car accident?

‘Drunk driving is still the No. 1 killer on our roads,’ said Helen Witty, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. ‘But drugged driving, as it’s legalized across this country, is a huge, emerging issue.’

Has the number of DUI fatalities increased in states with legalized marijuana?

Shockingly, the number of DUI fatalities in states with legalized marijuana has gone down. Scientists know that drivers who are high tend to drive at lower speeds, have more difficulty staying in their lanes, and are slower to brake in an emergency than drunk drivers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported. Hence, this may explain why traffic fatalities are not necessarily increasing the states that have legalized pot. But the number of reported accidents and collision claims have increased!

In Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, officials have seen a decrease in marijuana-impaired traffic fatalities. About 8% of all traffic fatalities tested positive for five nanograms of THC in 2017, down from 12% in 2016, according to the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. That’s the blood-THC level at which Colorado drivers can be charged with driving under the influence.

Washington, however, noticed a spike in the number of fatally injured drivers who had the chemical in their blood after recreational sales started in 2014. The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes there who tested positive for any THC has more than doubled since 2013, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission said.

How does marijuana impair a driver?

Police offers may use a Breathalyzer to confirm whether a driver’s blood-alcohol level, known as BAC, is above the federal legal limit of .08%. Five states have limits for THC, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, but there’s no scientifically accepted method of testing for impairment.

That’s because marijuana and alcohol affect the body differently.

Does the presence of marijuana in the blood indicate impairment?

No, the presence in the blood of marijuana, unlike alcohol, doesn’t necessarily indicate impairment, said Staci Hoff, research director at the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. Also, THC can all but disappear from the bloodstream in as little as half an hour, making it difficult to capture evidence that a person is too high to drive.

How are hard is it prosecute a driver impaired on marijuana?

The increases have caught Congress and federal regulators off guard as states with legalized marijuana seek answers. Unlike with alcohol, scientifically there’s neither a proven definition of marijuana-impaired driving nor a method of detecting it.

In Washington state, prosecutors are seeing more cases involving marijuana and driving because weed is now more accessible overwhelming toxicology labs for blood tests and creating a backlog of about 14 months instead of 30 days to turn around results.

The biggest challenge is a lack of reliable field tests to establish impairment, Garcia said.

Right now, law enforcement officers called Drug Recognition Experts are the main defense against marijuana-impaired driving. DREs undergo two weeks of training in which they learn to determine which drugs impair a driver. Those officers follow a 12-step process that includes examining the eyes, taking a pulse, and checking muscle tone.

DREs found about 30% of people they screened in 2018 were impaired by cannabis, making it the top identified drug category in the U.S.

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