Officials in Colorado and Washington Concerned About Marijuana-Related Car Crashes

Officials in Colorado and Washington are concerned about an increase in car crashes related to marijuana, now that recreational use of the drug by adults has been approved in both states.

Colorado’s new marijuana law does not make any changes to the state’s driving-under-the-influence laws, according to the Associated Press. Washington’s law sets a new blood-test limit for marijuana. Police are training to enforce the new limit, and some lawyers are preparing to challenge it, the article notes.

“We’ve had decades of studies and experience with alcohol,” Washington State Patrol spokesman Dan Coon told the AP. “Marijuana is new, so it’s going to take some time to figure out how the courts and prosecutors are going to handle it. But the key is impairment: We will arrest drivers who drive impaired, whether it be drugs or alcohol.”

Betty Aldworth, Outreach Director for Colorado’s Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which advocated for the state’s new law, said there is disagreement about how much THC—the active chemical in marijuana—causes impairment while driving.

An analysis of studies published earlier this year concluded driving under the influence of marijuana is associated with an increased risk of a motor vehicle crash, especially for fatal collisions. The analysis found driving under the influence of marijuana was associated with almost twice the risk of a motor vehicle crash compared with unimpaired driving. The studies in the analysis included nearly 50,000 people.

A 2009 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration based on blood, breath and saliva tests collected on weekends from drivers in 300 locations nationally, found that 16.3 percent of drivers at night were impaired from legal or illegal drugs, including 9 percent of drivers who had detectable traces of marijuana in their system.

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    January 2, 2013 at 3:40 AM

    Let us give a fat kid a piece of cake and sit it in front of him and hope he doesn’t try to eat it and them arrest him if he does….by then the cake is already gone.

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    January 2, 2013 at 3:38 AM

    They say they will arrest those under the influence of the drug while driving. The bad news is the accident will prolly occur before the police find the driver to be impaired. Which means then it is possibly too late for the innocent driver the influenced could possibly crash into.

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    December 8, 2012 at 3:38 AM

    I have definately witnessed more crashes here in washington state over the last couple of days since its been legalized. Even the local radio was doing countdowns between the seconds that each accident happened on the I5. 8 minutes was the longest time without an accident. Probably because people are baked out of their minds, and in high doses marijuana can definately impair judgement.

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    November 15, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    From a statisical point of view it will be interesting to see if the prevelence of accidents rises (more than expected with the additional substances that will be used. I have a feeling Colorado will be a test bed for other states who will consider this issue in the future.

    I do wonder though about the NHTSA study that found driving impaired by this substance to be associated with increased risk of accidents. If there is no agreed upon definintion of “impaired” with marijuana how exactly did the NHTSA designate “impaired” vs “not impaired”?

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