Every state in America has a legal driving limit for blood alcohol levels, as well as some type of law regulating drug use and driving. These laws are known as DUID laws, which stands for driving under the influence of drugs. The idea behind these laws is that being high on the road may be dangerous.
Any surprise that marijuana related driving arrests on the rise in friendly states? I figured this would happen. Before legalizing in Washington State, about 1,000 drivers were pulled over and tested positive for THC in their blood triggering a DUI or DWAI charge. After legalizing officials are saying they are at double the pace with almost 1,000 charged in just six months. Similar arrest rates are happening in Colorado, where we also know marijuana is now a recreational sport.
“Smoking marijuana has a very negative effect on your ability to operate a motor vehicle,” Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. ”It’s quite dangerous to you, your passengers and others on the road.”
“Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana,” Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia. Their research has shown that drugs played an increasing role in fatal traffic accidents. Drugged driving accounted for more than 28 percent of traffic deaths in 2010, which is 16 percent more than it was in 1999.
The researchers also found that marijuana was the main drug involved in the increase. It contributed to 12 percent of fatal crashes, compared to only 4 percent in 1999.
“If a driver is under the influence of alcohol, their risk of a fatal crash is 13 times higher than the risk of the driver who is not under the influence of alcohol,” Li said. “But if the driver is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, their risk increased to 24 times that of a sober person.”
More than a dozen states have “per se” cannabis driving laws that hand a DUI conviction, without a trial, to anyone exceeding the state’s THC blood limit. Most of those limits are set at zero. Most states have effect-based laws that require evidence of impairment due to recent ingestion of a controlled substance for a DUI conviction. Get the specifics on your state’s drugged driving laws here.
“We know that when people smoke marijuana they lose some of their peripheral vision,” Dr. Marilyn Huestis, a senior investigator at the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Intramural Research Program. ”We know it affects the passage of time, or the idea of how rapidly time is passing. It affects balance. And one of the most interesting areas it affects is the prefrontal cortex.”That, in turn, can affect our ability to make decisions, said Huestis. Marijuana can also make it hard to multitask. In several studies, marijuana has also interfered with drivers’ ability to hold the vehicle in the middle of the traffic lane, it has been reported.
There is no evidence that per se laws reduce traffic fatalities, according to a recent study by D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University and Daniel Rees of the University of Colorado. They may also “inadvertently become a criminal mechanism for law enforcement and prosecutors to punish those who have engaged in legally protected behavior and who have not posed any actionable traffic safety threat,” Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws said in a peer-reviewed report examining the limitations of per se cannabis driving laws.
In Washington state, where recreational marijuana use is legal and a per se driving law has been passed, a growing number of drivers are testing positive for marijuana. According to the Associated Press, a State Patrol spokesman said the increase might be because “we’re testing blood we didn’t test before.”
So imagine sitting there in your apartment smoking marijuana and a couple of hours later having to drive to the corner to get something from the store and in the meantime getting pulled over. Have a look at this HuffPo infographic and weep. You can be considered under the influence for as long at 90 days.
Ed. Comment– My take on all of this is that when people are driving under the influence of pot, alcohol or prescription drugs they are making a bad decision and what ever you call it, it is nothing more than than impaired driving. The more this driving stoned takes root, the more you will see Police going after erratic drivers looking for EASY DUI busts. As we know, what encourages our beloved police to pull over more drivers on suspicion of marijuana use just puts those of us who don’t drink or smoke pot and then drive under extra scrutiny. Personally, I can screw thing ups all by myself and I don’t need extra help. (LOL!) And for the record, I don’t think legalizing pot is a good idea anyway. Check me in 20 years. dp