Most drivers know about the dangers of drinking and getting behind the wheel, but there is a similar and lesser-known danger when it comes to using marijuana and driving. Much like drunk driving, drug use causes similar levels of cognitive impairment, loss of coordination, and a higher risk of causing a serious or fatal car accident.
How common is driving under the influence of marijuana?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey found that 12.6 percent of drivers surveyed on a weekend night tested positive for THC, the main chemical used for identifying marijuana use. Other government studies on drugged driving have found that males and young adults between 18 and 25 are the most likely to be found driving with THC detectable in their blood.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) classified marijuana as the second most common cause of impaired driving, after alcohol. Several studies of fatal crashes found that marijuana was the most common drug found in drivers’ systems, even more so than prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
How does marijuana impair a driver’s ability to control their vehicle?
The main intoxicant in marijuana, THC, directly affects the areas of the human brain that control:
- Motor skills
All of these elements are necessary for safe and responsible control of a motor vehicle. Any level of impairment of any one of these elements could result in a loss of control and a serious accident.
Because marijuana is a depressant, it can delay a driver’s reaction time and perception of her surroundings. This delay is more dangerous in high traffic areas or when traveling at high rates of speed. Impaired perception can also cause a driver to believe she is driving faster or slower than she really is which can cause them to become a hazard to other drivers.
The delay in reaction time means drivers under the influence of marijuana are often unable to account for changes in traffic flow, adjustments in lane sizes or directions, and sudden hazards in the road. Additionally, the impairment to a driver’s judgment can result in taking more risky behaviors such as running yellow lights or thinking they are not following too close to other vehicles.
Studies Find Marijuana Use Raises Accident Risk
Several studies have found a link between marijuana use and an increased risk of an accident.
- The NHTSA Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk Study found drivers who use marijuana were roughly 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use.
- A meta-analysis published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence in 2004 found that using this drug when driving can double the risk of causing a car accident.
- The “Cannabis’ Effects on Driving Skills” study published in the Clinical Chemistry journal in 2013 found that drivers with THC detected in their blood were three to seven times more likely to be the at-fault party in an accident.
If an Impaired Driver Caused Your Car Accident, We Are Here to Help
According to Ohio Statute § 4511.19, if a driver has 10 nanograms of marijuana per milliliter of urine or two ng/ml in the blood, she is impaired.
If you were involved in an accident with a driver you believe was under the influence of marijuana, talk to a car accident attorney before you file your claim. While cannabis use can be strong evidence of fault in your claim, you will need to go about producing this evidence in the proper way.
Contact our office today to set up a free consultation, or call us directly at 419-843-6663.