While the effects of drunk driving in Hollywood and other cities are abundantly clear and drivers know the risks of drinking and driving, the risks of drug use, unfortunately, are less often talked about. While some prescription and over-the-counter medication come with warnings that they should not be used by drivers, DUI car crashes in Hollywood and other cities continue to happen because drivers get behind the wheel of their cars after taking medication or after using illegal drugs.
Even drugs that are often not implied in car accidents – such as marijuana – can have an impact on driving ability, according to some studies. A recent study from Columbia University, for example, has found that the number of fatal traffic accidents involving marijuana rose three-fold between 2000 and 2010. Researchers conducting the study looked at the toxicological results of close to 24,000 fatal traffic collisions, finding that marijuana was a possible factor in 12% of the fatalities that occurred during this time period.
Other studies have suggested that the use of marijuana before driving may disproportionately affect young drivers. A 2010 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey, for example, found that one in eight polled high school students admitted to driving after smoking marijuana. A federal study showed that about half of drivers killed in car accidents who had smoked marijuana before driving were under the age of 25. Another recent study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggested that marijuana can lower IQ in teens and can impair driving ability of young drivers. The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Highway Traffic Safety Administration are currently conducting a study about the effects of the drug on driving ability; results are expected to be released within the year.
These types studies tend to be controversial, with advocates of marijuana legalization discounting studies linking marijuana to addiction. The studies have also been criticized for failing to find a firm link between marijuana use and impaired driving ability, with some legalization advocates stating that there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that just because a driver took marijuana before being in a car accident it does not necessarily mean that the use of marijuana caused the collision.
Earlier this year, Washington and Colorado approved marijuana for public use, and other states are considering similar changes. It is uncertain whether the most recent studies will have any impact on the efforts of some states to legalize the drug.
Even if studies find that marijuana is dangerous when combined with driving, experts say that enforcing a no driving after smoking rule would be difficult. As in the early days of drunk driving campaigns, it may be difficult to convince drivers that using marijuana could put them at risk of car and truck accidents in Hollywood or their communities. Some experts have suggested setting a safe limit, as there is with alcohol, but more studies would need to be conducted to determine what safe levels of marijuana might be for drivers. A testing and enforcement strategy would also need to be introduced to crack down on marijuana use among drivers. Of course, first it would need to be determined whether marijuana does in fact lead to car crashes.
If you have been injured by an inebriated or reckless driver, Flaxman Law Group would like to offer a free consultation with one of the personal injury attorneys at our law firm. A member of our compassionate legal staff can meet with you and your family to determine what your legal options for compensation might be.