Recreational marijuana is legal in 8 states, including Massachusetts and Maine in the Northeast. Medical marijuana is legal now in New York State. But oddly enough, it is still illegal under federal law, though the feds have determined that a state’s legal medical marijuana is not a priority. (Though this may be changing with our current DOJ.)
The drug once criticized so harshly in the movie, “Reefer Madness” is seeing better times. And its portrayal as a big joke by Cheech and Chong in the 70s and 80s is now touted as a miracle drug that helps relieve the discomfort of certain illnesses.
So now that marijuana is becoming more acceptable, chances are that more people will attempt to drive while under its influence. The question is, how does that affect your driving? Are more people on marijuana involved in crashes? And if it does affect your driving, what does it do to you to make it more dangerous.
We checked with the website at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out more. They indicate that the number of new marijuana users is increasing in the U.S., which makes sense with its legalization. Also, 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their systems, up from 9% in 2007. And, after alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often linked to drugged driving.
How Marijuana Affects Your Driving
- Marijuana slows your reaction time and ability to make decisions.
- It impairs your physical coordination and distorts perception. Memory loss is typical with difficulty in problem solving.
- Alcohol combined with marijuana increases the risk of an accident more than either by themselves.
You would think that we could prove the dangers of marijuana and driving, but statistics are elusive. There is no accurate test for drug use that police officers could use on the scene like there is with alcohol.
Marijuana can remain in the system for longer lengths of time so it would be difficult to blame a car accident on it. And often drivers involved in a crash have both alcohol and drugs in their system. It’s difficult to know what actually caused the accident.
Some European studies do indicate that drivers with THC in their blood, the main mind-altering ingredient in marijuana, were roughly twice as likely to cause fatal crashes as drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol.
A large study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found no significant increased crash risk attributable to marijuana. However, a recent analysis by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found that after legalizing marijuana use in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, collision claim frequencies rose 3 percent more than would have been expected without legalization.
So the jury is still out on the effect marijuana use has on auto crashes. But here at SZW Insurance, we’re sure about one thing…driving a car is a considerable responsibility.
Yes, it’s a routine part of life. But any kind of impaired driving, whether caused by cell phones, alcohol consumption, lack of sleep, aging…or drug use…is dangerous for the driver and for everyone else on the road.
We applaud New York State’s legalization of marijuana for medical use to relieve some of the pain and discomfort for those suffering from chronic diseases.
But if you are driving a car, stay sober, alert, and drug free.
Until next time,
Your SZW Team
SZW Insurance is your New Hartford area Trusted Choice™ independent insurance agent. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000. Or request a quote here.