A recent NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll found that the majority of American favor the legalization of marijuana. Twenty states allow medical marijuana. Both Washington State and Colorado allow marijuana for personal use. But, a recent study found that legalizing marijuana may not be as harmless as some believe.
Researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health looked at a decade’s worth of crash statistics from California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and West Virginia. These states were chosen because they perform toxicology tests on all drivers involved in fatal car wrecks. The study included toxicology report for 23,500 drivers who died between 1999 and 2010.
The researchers found that about 40 percent of the drivers involved in fatal crashes were impaired by alcohol. This percentage remained steady from year to year. But, they found a 300 percent increase in marijuana impairment over the time of the study. The increase included both men and women, and affected every age group. Currently, one out of every nine drivers (12 %) involved in a fatal crash tests positive for marijuana.
According to study author Dr. Guohua Li, this is a disturbing trend. “If this trend continues, in five or six years non-alcoholic drugs will overtake alcohol to become the most common substance involved in deaths related to impaired driving.”
Drugged driving accounted for 16 percent of fatal crashes in 1999. Drugged driving accounted for more than 28 percent of traffic deaths in 2010. Marijuana was the main drug involved in the increase in drugged-driving deaths.
The study authors were most concerned about the combined use of alcohol and marijuana. A driver who is using alcohol is 13 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than a driver who is sober. If the driver is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, this fatal crash risk increases 24 times compared to a sober driver. If marijuana is legalized, accident risk will have to be considered.
The study was published online in the January 29th issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal. If you are injured by a driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you want to be sure your rights are protected. To learn more about the rights of DUI victims in Pennsylvania, please call Mednick, Mezyk & Kredo, P.C., at 888-807-9675.