Updated on: 2/26/2019
THC is the active ingredient in marijuana and is responsible for the “high” that recreational users enjoy. A recently released study from the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission has found a massive increase in the number of drivers testing positive for THC in their systems, with a spike of 44% in the last five years.
High drivers are a risk on the road
Researchers at the Washington State Toxicology Lab tested almost two thousand blood samples of drivers involved in car accidents; some were still alive, but others had died from their injuries. 59.8% were found to have marijuana, alcohol or other drugs in their systems at the time of the crash. Researchers found that in most cases, impaired drivers had mixed multiple intoxicants, further dulling their reaction time behind the wheel. Only eight percent of the drivers tested had consumed only marijuana, but many had mixed the drug with alcohol or other mind-altering substances.
While marijuana is now legal to sell and possess in Washington State, with some restrictions under state law, it’s still illegal to get behind the wheel while high. It’s also an extremely bad idea: researchers found that THC-positive drivers were more likely to be involved in crashes in the daytime hours and more likely to cause crashes by drifting out of their lanes and overcorrecting. Drivers who mixed pot and alcohol were more likely to drive without a license, speed and drive without a seatbelt.
This legal drug is still illegal behind the wheel
Just because a drug is legal to buy and consume doesn’t mean it’s safe in all circumstances. Alcohol, some prescription medications, marijuana and even over-the-counter medications that cause dizziness or drowsiness are all unsafe to consume before operating a motor vehicle. Drugged driving is illegal under Washington State law, and drivers who are found to be at fault for a crash while under the influence may face criminal as well as civil penalties.
While the police will go after drivers who were criminally negligent, they are not in charge of recovering monetary damages for victims who need to pay for hospital bills, time off work, car repairs and other expenses caused by a drugged driver. If you or someone you love has been hurt in a crash caused by a drugged driver, it may be time to speak with a personal injury attorney.