Marijuana Use in Fatal Car Crashes Has Tripled in the Past Decade

There has been less stigma attached to the use of marijuana compared to many other drugs. In fact, the United States is seeing a greater push to legalize it. Yet some are worried about the impact this might have on impaired driving.

A new study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health suggests that marijuana use is increasingly becoming a factor in fatal motor vehicle crashes. In fact, its association with fatal accidents has tripled in the previous decade. The researchers note that non-alcohol drugs could become more common than alcohol as the most common substance involved in fatal accidents in the next five or six years.

Crash statistics from 1999 to 2010 involving more than 23,500 drivers who died within an hour of the accident, were analyzed from six different states: Rhode Island, Illinois, California, West Virginia, New Hampshire and Hawaii. The findings showed that alcohol-related drunk driving contributed to about 40 percent of the fatal accidents throughout that time period.

However, drug impairment involved in fatal accidents increased from more than 16 percent in 1999 to more than 28 percent in 2010. Marijuana use contributed significantly to this trend, increasing from four percent in 1999 to 12 percent in 2010.

Researchers did caution that detection of drugs doesn’t necessarily prove impairment. It merely shows that drug use was involved, whether at the time of the crash or earlier. Since marijuana can be in someone’s system for as long as a week, it might not have played a role in the accident, the researchers caution.

They also point out that a driver’s risk of suffering fatal injuries is greatly increased when alcohol and marijuana are combined. With alcohol alone, the risk is 13 times higher when compared to someone who isn’t impaired, the researchers note. But when marijuana is combined with alcohol, the risk increases to 24 times higher.

If impairment was the cause of a loved one’s serious or fatal accident, it’s important to seek legal advice regarding your options to recover compensation for damages. Contact Gacovino, Lake & Associates at 800-550-0000 to schedule a consultation.

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