In Washington DC, Maryland and across the nation, there is increasing acceptance of legal marijuana use. One of the main concerns about this, however, is that people who are using the substance without fear of legal problems might take that newfound freedom too far and get behind the wheel under the influence. Driving under the influence of marijuana or alcohol can hinder judgment, reduce reaction time and cause people to behave in ways they normally would not. When there is a motor vehicle accident with injuries and fatalities, it should be assessed whether there was substance use by one of the drivers. This has been a known problem, but as a recent AAA survey showed, using these substances and driving can be risky in other, surprising ways.
Drivers who use marijuana and alcohol in general take more driving risks
Marijuana and alcohol is not just treacherous if drivers use it right before driving, but AAA says that people who used either or both in general took more risks when driving even if they were not under the influence at the time. If the driver used marijuana or drank alcohol within 30 days of driving, they tended to speed, text and drive, go through red lights and drive aggressively more often than drivers who had not.
AAA says that drivers who used both had a greater propensity to commit a DUI with alcohol than those who drink alcohol but are not marijuana users. Statistically, the numbers for people who use alcohol or marijuana had interesting disparities. With speeding on a residential street, 46% of marijuana users did so while 35% of alcohol users did. Those who used both came in at 55%. With aggressive driving, those who used both registered at 52%; alcohol only was 28% and marijuana only 41%. Distracted drivers who texted were at 40% for those who used both; 21% for alcohol only; and 24% for marijuana only. People who did not use either substance had far fewer instances of dangerous driving behaviors. The main substance in marijuana – THC – was found to diminish a driver’s ability to perceive, gauge and react, but they were also said to be more cautious.
Concerns about driving and drug and alcohol use are well-founded
It is unfortunate that motor vehicle accidents often cause injuries and death to people who were simply minding their own business and heading out on the road to go to work, school, to drive a loved one, to run errands or to go on a leisure activity. People who have had their lives upended by an auto accident should be aware of their alternatives in the aftermath. Marijuana use, alcohol use or a combination could have played a foundational role in the collision. Gathering evidence is key when thinking about pursuing a claim. Having professional assistance can assess the circumstances and formulate a plan to move forward to recover for all that was lost.