DRUGGED DRIVING

Motor vehicle crashes are up by 6% in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington compared to neighboring states that have not legalized marijuana for recreational use. This has now become a critical issue for the opposition to New York’s marijuana legislation.

According to an article in The Journal News on February 26, 2019, by David Robison entitled “What to know about drugged driving”, the above confirmed states analysis of 6% increase in the above four states that legalized recreational marijuana from January, 2012 through October, 2017 should be considered in states like New York and the effect on highway driving.

The number of fatalities in Colorado where a driver tested positive for any cannabis increased to 139 from 55, including crashes that involved marijuana alone or its use with other drugs or alcohol. A percentage of all traffic fatalities are marijuana related. The death count nearly doubled to 21% between 2013 and 2018 according to Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. Experts noted that marijuana toxicology testing in Colorado and other states is inconclusive because THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, stays in the body longer than it impairs driving.

In Oregon, the laws did not set marijuana impairment limits for drivers determined through urine and blood testing. In contrast, seven other states made it illegal to drive with amount of marijuana in the body that exceeds set limits like drunk driving laws. This is to be compared to Colorado that states 5 Nano grams of active THC can be prosecuted for drugged driving but like other states, law enforcement also bases arrests on observed impairments.

The article points outs that additional debate of an impairment standard requires further study because more drivers in crashes are tested for alcohol then for drugs according to The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. When drivers are tested, other drugs are often found with alcohol which makes it difficult to isolate their separate effects. Yet, crash data from legal marijuana states indicates their roadways are becoming less safe.

A National Ad Campaign launched by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to spread awareness of the dangers of drugged driving is called “Drive High, get DUI”. About 44% of drivers killed in crashes in 2016 who were tested afterwards, had drugs in their system which is up from 28%, a decade earlier. Further, of the drugged drivers killed in crashes in 2016, more than half tested positive for multiple substances. Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk driving crashes or one person every 48 minutes in 2017. These deaths have fallen by a third in the last three decades but drunk driving crashes still claim more than 10,000 per year. In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, the drunk driving deaths and damages contributed to a cost of $44 billion.

Dozens of New York police officers have received specialized training to conduct rigorous testing known as drug recognition experts. More will be added under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to allow recreational cannabis. Blood, breath and urine samples could also be taken to determine if a driver is high. But, such tests also detect if the driver was high that day or week rather than if they were high while operating the vehicle in that instance. A new marijuana breathalyzer that detects motorists smoking pot is hitting the market that some experts say could address the issue.

Other new technology trying to address the issues is a smart phone app that measures reaction time, decision making, hand eye coordination, time estimation and balance. The testing takes 2 minutes and is call DUID (driving under the influence of drugs). DUID is currently available and marketed as a tool for marijuana users and alcohol drinkers to self-assess their own level of impairment and hopefully decide against driving if they are impaired.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk or drugged driver, contact the law offices of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800 or on the web at WhitePlains-Injury-Lawyers.com