In weighing this prospect, voters would do well to consider one of the most detrimental side effects that has been noted so far as part of this trend: the incidence of drugged driving, particularly marijuana-related crashes that resulted in deaths.
A new study published by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health indicates that in the last decade, drugged-driving deaths have spiked by 75 percent, while marijuana-related traffic deaths have tripled.
Our West Palm Beach injury lawyers recognize that researchers stopped short of saying that medical marijuana was to blame, but the fact is, the drug has never been more readily and legally available in this country than it is today.
What’s more, many of these crashes hit very close to home.
Take, for example, the fatal crash in August that resulted in the death of a 65-year-old seasonal Pompano Beach resident in Boca Raton. The 17-year-old driver of the vehicle that struck him confessed to authorities that he had been smoking marijuana just prior to the crash. A blood test later confirmed the presence of the drug in the defendant’s system.
The rise of marijuana-related crashes is perhaps somewhat understated in this study, considering that researchers looked solely at the chemical test results of drivers who died. Not every crash resulting in a death was measured.
Still, the researchers did analyze the results of chemical tests from some 23,500 drivers who died within one hour of the crash between 1999 and 2010.
The percentage of drivers found to have a blood-alcohol level that suggested impairment remained steady at about 40 percent. However, the role of drugs in these incidents sharply increased. Overall, drugged-driving accounted for 16 percent of driver deaths in 1999. That figure had spiked to 28 percent by 2010.
With regard to marijuana, the drug was found to be involved in about 4 percent of fatal crashes in 1999. Fast-forward to 2010, and it was a factor in some 12 percent of driver deaths.
What’s more, when drivers combined their use of marijuana with alcohol, their risk of a fatal crash soared. While a drunk driver is 13 times more likely to be involved in a deadly wreck than someone who is sober, a person who is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana is 24 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash as a sober driver.
For all the talk that pro-marijuana advocates offer about it being a “safe” drug, the reality is that behind the wheel, it can result in impairment that mirrors alcohol intoxication. For example, a person’s vision, judgment and distraction levels are all affected when he or she is under the influence of marijuana.
Although the passage of pro-marijuana legislation wouldn’t allow impaired driving under any circumstances, it would almost certainly make the drug more widely available in Florida.
Voters need to ask themselves whether that is truly worth the risk.
If you have been injured in a car accident, contact The Hollander Law Firm today toll free at (888) 751-7770.