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In CA and other states, more study needed on pot-impaired driving

Drunk driving has long been a problem in the United States. Moreover, it is a highly researched and well-documented problem. There is no dispute that drunk driving is dangerous and deadly.

But marijuana, on the other hand, remains a problem, in part, because its effects on driving ability are a matter of significant debate. It is clear that marijuana impairment increases a driver’s crash risk, but the increased risk is difficult to quantify. One thing is certain: stoned driving continues to be a pressing issue in California and in other states where either medical or recreational marijuana use is legal.

All states have laws against driving while impaired by marijuana. For the purposes of criminal cases involving drugged driving or a drug-related auto accident, there will need to be some guidance on what it means to be impaired by marijuana. Only three states have set an intoxication threshold for marijuana, defined by the level of THC in the blood.

For personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, however, plaintiffs may not need to split hairs over the level of marijuana impairment to argue that drugged driving played a significant role in the injurious or fatal car accident. After all, drivers who were impaired by alcohol can still be held liable for accidents they caused, even if their blood-alcohol concentration did not surpass the threshold of 0.08 percent.

No matter what drink or drug a person may have ingested, impaired driving is dangerous. And those who get behind the wheel while impaired need to be ready to face the consequences of their negligence.

Source: Monroe News, “Marijuana's hazy contribution to highway deaths,” Sept. 2, 2014

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