Marijuana’s Involvement with Fatal Crashes Between 2010-2014

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According to News.Mic, marijuana is legal in 23 of 50 U.S. states. Americans not in support of legalizing the drug in the remaining 27 states argue that marijuana is addictive and bad for our mental and physical health.

We’re taught from an early age to say no to drugs. PSA announcements and the “No Drugs” week in schools tell us that any and all drugs are bad for us, even marijuana. Studies abound showing the positive and negative effects of marijuana use, and the truth of it, marijuana does have both positive and negative attributes. It’s argued that smoking pot and getting behind the wheel is worse than drinking and driving, but is that really fair to say? In an interview with CBS News, professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine Dr. Aaron Carroll says, “After going through all the data and looking at which is more dangerous in almost any metric you would pick, pot really looks like it’s safer than alcohol.”

So which is worse, driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI)?

Crash Statistics: DUI v. DWI

Before we go into the specifics, we should first understand the difference between a DUI and a DWI. A DUI refers to driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, while a DWI refers strictly to driving while intoxicated under alcohol. Thus, if a person is pulled over and found to be under the influence of drugs, they will be charged with a DUI. If a person is suspected of driving while intoxicated, they will be charged with DWI. Okay, now we’re ready to get into some statistics!

In wanting to better understand pot’s role in traffic accidents, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety compiled the report “Prevalence of Marijuana Involvement in Fatal Crashes: Washington, 2010-2014” in a state (Washington) that in 2012 legalized recreational marijuana use.

The objective of the study was to “quantify the prevalence of marijuana involvement in fatal crashes in the state of Washington in years 2010-2014” to see if fatal accidents rose in number after marijuana’s legalization in the state.

By collecting fatal accident data AAA wanted to see if there was a presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the toxicology reports of the deceased. THC is the main chemical found in pot, and if it was found present in the blood stream of the deceased, it was deduced that the deceased had smoked pot before getting in the car. Here are AAA’s findings.

In over 3,000 deaths, only an estimated 10 percent were positive for THC. Here is what was found by percentage breakdown:

No alcohol, no drugs: 34 percent

Detectable alcohol and THC: 39 percent

Drugs and THC: 16.5 percent

Alcohol, drugs and THC: 10.5 percent

In looking at the numbers, it would appear that the same people who are willing to get behind the wheel after a toke are the same people who do so after slinging back a few drinks. AAA also found that THC was detectable in drivers with suspended and revoked licenses between the ages of 18 and 34.

However, the key finding in this report was that drivers testing positive for THC did increase after Washington legalized recreational marijuana use. But again, those found with elevated THC levels were also found with an elevated blood alcohol content (BAC).

Every hour, one person is killed in a drunk driving accident and another 20 are injured. Because marijuana legalization is still fairly new, we don’t yet have completely reliable accident fatality statistics for marijuana users. All we can do is treat impaired driving by marijuana and alcohol as an offense, and hope it stymie’s usage on the road.

If you’re nervous about getting hit by a driver under the influence, you’ll feel better knowing you have car insurance to protect you and your family should an accident arise. Finding a car insurance quote is easy to do and help put your mind at ease.