Marijuana use leading to fatal car accidents

Marijuana use has been a hot topic in the news all across the U.S. in recent months. Indeed, after Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of the drug, a number of other jurisdictions have begun considering similar measures. One aspect of the population's changing attitudes about marijuana has gone unnoticed, however: the number of fatal car accidents in the U.S. involving marijuana has increased significantly over the past ten years.

Researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University recently published a report on the increase of drugged driving accidents in the U.S. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, examined data collected from six states where authorities have an established procedure for collecting toxicology information from drivers implicated in fatal accidents. Overall, researchers examined information about approximately 23,500 drivers who died in car accidents from 1999 to 2010.

Researchers discovered that approximately 11 percent of all drivers in the study tested positive for marijuana. By contrast, alcohol was found in the bloodstream of approximately 40 percent of drivers in the study. Notably, however, the rate of fatal accidents involving alcohol remained steady. The rate of accidents involving marijuana showed a steep increase. In 1999, for example, only about four percent of drivers involved in fatal accidents tested positive for marijuana. By 2010, that number had risen to 12 percent. Researchers also noted that drivers who tested positive for both marijuana and alcohol were far more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those who tested positive for only one substance.

According to the authors of the study, the rate of increase over the decade of the study indicates that marijuana and other drugs will overtake alcohol as the primary substance related to fatal car accidents in about five to six years. This is particularly important to remember as an increasing number of states consider whether to move forward with initiatives to decriminalize or allow the medical use of marijuana. While these initiatives may make sense from certain perspectives, the reality is that they may also impact the safety of our country's roadways.

In many cases, those who have been injured in a car accident caused by another person have legal rights, including the right to compensation for pain and suffering and medical bills. Schedule a consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer to find out more.