Marijuana DUIs Putting More Motorists at Risk

Getting behind the wheel high on marijuana is apparently a dangerous mix, according to a new study by the Colorado State Patrol which shows more drivers involved in fatal car accidents in Colorado are testing positive for marijuana — and that Colorado has a higher percentage of such drivers testing positive for pot than other states. Last year, the State Patrol reported that troopers issued 5,546 citations for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Of those, 674 — about 12.2 percent — involved suspected marijuana use, either alone or in combination with other intoxicants. For 354 of those citations — about 6.4 percent of the total — marijuana was believed to be the only substance involved.

Moreover, combining marijuana with alcohol appears to increase driving impairment beyond the effects of either substance alone. Although researchers are just beginning to study the effects of marijuana on driving, Columbia University researchers recently compared drivers who tested positive for marijuana in a roadside survey with state drug and alcohol tests of drivers killed in crashes. They found that marijuana alone increased the likelihood of being involved in a fatal crash by 80 percent. Since not every driver is tested after a fatal crash, state officials have recently improved their data-collection efforts to better understand the role marijuana may play in crashes throughout Colorado.

In Colorado, of all the drivers involved in fatal crashes from 2006-2010 who were tested and found to be impaired, the vast majority — 84 percent — were impaired by alcohol, while the remainder — 16 percent — tested positive for marijuana. While state traffic-safety experts historically concentrated more heavily on alcohol-impaired drivers, with the legalization of recreational marijuana, officials have begun to focus more heavily on marijuana-related auto accidents. But despite the Colorado Department of Transportation recently spending $1 million on a public-service ad campaign called “Drive High, Get a DUI” — which reminds drivers that you still cannot smoke and drive — 21 percent of recreational marijuana consumers don’t know they could be cited for driving under the influence of pot, just as with alcohol or other controlled substances.

This criminal offense, known as “drugged driving”, can still get you arrested for a DUI, and Colorado police are stepping-up their efforts to keep our roadways safe in the face of marijuana legalization. Under Colorado law, drivers with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence and are charged with the same crime as drunk drivers. Whats more, unlike with alcohol, police cannot measure THC levels with a breathalyzer, but instead require a blood test, allowing law enforcement to base arrests on observed impairment regardless of actual THC levels. In some ways, however, this is making enforcement of marijuana DUIs more challenging and possibly putting more motorists at risk for a DUI accident.

Today, a DUI accident victim can bring a civil claim against a negligent or reckless driver, whether that impaired driver was charged with a DUI under the influence of alcohol, or marijuana. If a drugged or drunk driver injured you or a loved one in a DUI accident, you may be able to recover compensation for the harm suffered. Working with an experienced DUI accident attorney can help you get the justice you deserve.