More fatal car accident deaths in New Jersey are being caused by drivers who are under the influence of drugs than under the influence of alcohol, according to a new report from AAA Northeast. This is a new development. For the past eight years, drunk drivers more frequently caused substance-related car accident deaths than drugged drivers. Is it the beginning of a new trend?
The report found that from 2007 to 2014, more drivers under the influence of alcohol caused deaths on the road than drivers under the influence of drugs. Between 2015 and 2016, however, the reverse was true. Marijuana and narcotics were the most common drugs found in the blood of drugged drivers who died in car accidents, a testament to the fact that many people do not see marijuana and painkillers that are prescribed by a doctor to be dangerous.
Changing the Message
For decades, the American public has been told, “Don’t drink and drive.” As a result, rates of deaths on the road caused by alcohol use have steadily decreased over time. However, the message sent about marijuana use, either for medicinal reasons or recreationally, is that it is a harmless drug because more and more states are legalizing its use among adults. Unfortunately, this message has not been paired with the reminder to avoid driving after marijuana use, and as a result, it is increasingly the cause of fatal car accidents.
Legal Recreational Marijuana in NJ?
Medical marijuana is legal in New Jersey. While the drug is not yet legal for recreational use, there are ongoing discussions about putting forth bills that would change that. The increase in rates of drugged driving while under the influence of marijuana is one of the reasons why many are alarmed at this idea. The states that have legalized the drug for recreational use have seen a host of problems develop, many of which have not been properly addressed. There are continuing concerns that the immediate increase in tax revenue through the marijuana industry does not outweigh the problems, both current and future, that result.
THC and Driving Ability
Studies show that motor coordination, judgment, and reaction time are all significantly impaired in drivers who have THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in their system. Despite this fact, many drivers believe that they are fine to drive after using the drug.
A 2014 study found that marijuana is the drug most commonly found in drivers involved in car accidents, including accidents that cause fatalities. Another study found that drivers who used marijuana before getting behind the wheel were twice as likely to be involved in a deadly accident as those who had taken no drugs, including alcohol.
To make matters worse, drivers who have both alcohol and THC in their systems are even more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than drivers who had used just marijuana or just alcohol prior to getting behind the wheel.
What Do You Think?
Do you think it is safe to drive after using marijuana? If so, do you think that any amount is okay or that there is a certain “waiting period” that should be observed before getting behind the wheel?
If not, how do you think the issue of driving while under the influence of marijuana should be addressed by law enforcement? A big part of the problem with monitoring THC-influenced driving is that marijuana can stay in the blood for weeks after ingestion, and high levels of THC may impact a daily user of the drug differently than someone who does not use the drug often. It is not easy for law enforcement to get the evidence necessary to prosecute a drugged driver beyond the results of motor skills tests, especially on the side of the road during a traffic stop. While the hope is that there will be machines developed in the near future that are akin to the breathalyzer that is used to indicate alcohol levels in a driver, it remains a serious issue in the meantime, especially in states where marijuana is legal for recreational use.
Does your loved one drive after using marijuana? Do they need help stopping use of all drugs in order to decrease their risk of death due to fatal car accident?