As more states in the U.S. legalize marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, the use of the drug has exploded. So too has the number of people with marijuana in their systems at the time of a car accident.
But determining whether the marijuana was actually the cause of the accident, or how dangerous it is to drive while under the influence of the drug, is not as easy and simple as that.
Failing a Drug Test Does Not Mean the Driver Was High
The most important difficulty in gauging how dangerous it is to drive while under the influence of THC, the intoxicant in marijuana, is a practical one: Drivers who are in a crash and who then fail a drug test were not necessarily high at the time of the collision.
Studies have shown that THC can be detected in your body for up to 28 days after ingesting marijuana. If a driver is in a crash and gets drug tested, and the drug test finds THC, that only means that the driver has used marijuana in the past month – not that he or she was under the influence during the crash.
This practical difficulty skews lots of the crash data that we have, which labels accidents as “drug related” if someone admits to drug use – which is an unreliable indicator – or fails a drug test – which only means they smoked in the last month. One such study claimed that the percentage of fatal crashes that involved cannabis increased from 9 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2018. But the study also said that an accident “involved cannabis” if the driver failed a drug test. As a result, the study actually indicates that nearly a quarter of people in fatal accidents had used marijuana in the month preceding the crash – a far less shocking statement.
We Still Lack Metrics for Measuring the Impact of THC
Another obstacle in gauging the danger that marijuana poses on the road is the lack of a reliable metric for what it means to be “under the influence” of the drug.
It can be helpful to use alcohol as a comparison.
For drunk driving, we use blood alcohol content, or BAC, as a measurement for how impaired a driver is. While it is not perfect – some people get impaired at lower BAC levels than others – a BAC of over 0.08 percent is legally presumed to be “under the influence.”
There is no similar metric for drugged driving, though. At the moment, any level of THC in a driver’s system is presumed to make him or her “under the influence.”
Car Accident Lawyers at the Smith Law Office Serve Western Missouri
These obstacles make it difficult to say, for sure, how dangerous it is to drive while high on marijuana. While reports have certainly linked marijuana to an increase in car accidents, even those studies conflict with each other, and some of them have telling conflicts of interest.
If you or a loved one is involved in a car accident with a drugged driver, you deserve compensation. The personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office can help you recover it. Contact them online or call them at (816) 875-9373.