Public outcry about serious or fatal crashes caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol led to strict drunk driving laws. Because even small amounts of alcohol cause impaired judgment and slowed reflexes, drivers whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above the legal limit may not even feel the alcohol’s effects.

Now, drivers have another demon to face: marijuana. With some states legalizing medical marijuana, and some considering legalizing both medical and recreational use of the drug, it’s time to take a hard look at how these changes might affect the safety of people on Kentucky’s streets and highways.

Research Reveals Risk

Researchers at Dalhousie University in Canada published an essay last year in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). They had reviewed nine studies and analyzed data for more than 49,000 people who had been involved in accidents on public roads, including whether they had been smoking marijuana.

The researchers concluded that people who smoke marijuana within a few hours of driving are nearly twice as likely to be involved in a vehicle accident resulting in serious injury or death. The results further showed that the drivers who had smoked marijuana and died in these crashes had higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than did the drivers who survived the accidents.

Wayne Hall, of the University of Queensland’s Center for Clinical Research, was not surprised by the study results. “Their results are consistent with experimental evidence that cannabis use leads to dose-related impairments in simulated driving, psychomotor skills, and on-road driving,” he wrote in another BMJ article.

Studies Are Incomplete

The aforementioned studies generally consider only the marijuana use of the at-fault driver; data were not collected for passengers, drivers who were not deemed at fault, and drivers involved in minor accidents. Research is also needed to determine whether roadside drug tests have any effect on the number of drug-related vehicle accidents.

Tests for THC Are Inadequate

Although levels of THC can be ascertained in roadside tests, a threshold level—similar to the blood alcohol level—has yet to be determined. In the absence of this necessary knowledge, many states use the zero-tolerance rule: any detectable amount of THC constitutes driving under the influence.

If you or your loved one has been injured in a Kentucky car crash, contact Gray and White Law. Our Jefferson County auto accident lawyers will set you up with a FREE, no-obligation consultation. Just call us at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456.

Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law

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