Is Legal Marijuana Causing More Car Accidents?

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Legal Marijuana

Multiple studies over the past few years have shown that, in states with legalized or decriminalized marijuana use, car accident rates have gone up slightly. In one study, researchers found that car accidents increased after states legalized marijuana use by about 10 percent. But five percent of that increase was directly related to alcohol use.

Yet another study found that, in states with legalized marijuana use, car accidents increased by six percent after legalization. This report creates no link between marijuana use and the increase in accidents but does raise red flags because it is nearly impossible to test people for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), although one can test for marijuana generally. Many experts agree that even though more data needs to be collected, the trend is going in the wrong direction.

Different Studies, Different Results

Because all of this information is so new and because it has barely been two decades since the first states even began considering the decriminalization of marijuana, there is little data available to make conclusive determinations. One study from 2015 noted that a positive marijuana test did not cause a higher risk of being in a car accident. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducted a study backing up those findings. The IIHS study concluded that using only marijuana would not increase someone’s risk of getting into a car accident.

However, marijuana use along with other drug use, whether that is alcohol, opioids, or anything else, can lead to an increased risk of a car accident. And that is what a new IIHS study has concluded. The new study also alleges a causal link between increased rates of car accidents and those increases being in states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana use.

A controlled study using driving simulators found similar results to the recent IIHS study. This study found that drivers who had used marijuana before driving had a slower reaction time and had difficulty staying in their lane. These results are similar to how drunk drivers would perform on the road.

However, this same study also found contradictory evidence to suggest drivers who used marijuana were more likely to be less aggressive drivers. Drivers who used marijuana were more likely to drive more slowly than other drivers, stay in their lane and not pass other cars, and more likely to keep a larger distance between them and the car in front of them. Ultimately, the findings of the study suggest that although a driver who uses marijuana may still cause an accident, it is likely to be less severe because their driving is much less aggressive.

Overall, these studies provide inconclusive evidence of marijuana increasing the likelihood of a car accident. Yet the most recent IIHS study suggests there is one way that marijuana use could actually conclusively contribute to increased rates of car accidents, and that is when marijuana is combined with other drugs, specifically alcohol. When marijuana was legalized and decriminalized, some people began using the drug but did not stop their drinking habits. Besides that, when a neighboring state legalizes marijuana use, residents from other states may drive to buy the product, further increasing the likelihood of accidents with more vehicles on the road.

Part of the problem of these studies and data is that it is simply difficult to measure how much marijuana impacts a person. Just like alcohol affects people differently, marijuana is the same and, in some cases, less inhibiting.

Another problem is testing. Although one can test for marijuana use and it will show that someone has marijuana in their system, that is not conclusive evidence that someone is impaired. That is mostly true because it is the THC that really alters a person’s mind, and that is not something that can be tested at present. In addition to that, a person can test negative for marijuana and still feel the effects of the THC. This is possible because THC stays in the system long after marijuana is detectable. And, more importantly for car accidents, THC is what makes people have an altered state that could impair their ability to drive safely.

Ultimately, more study and evidence are needed to determine whether marijuana use alone can contribute to an increased risk of car accidents. Right now, the best way to keep everyone safe on the road is for drivers to abide by all relevant laws and not get behind the wheel of a vehicle if alcohol or drugs have recently been ingested.

Steps to Get Compensation

When someone causes a car accident, they may have acted in a negligent, reckless, or careless manner. They may have acted this way by using marijuana along with alcohol. When that happens, they may be liable to victims in other vehicles who suffered injuries.

For those victims to get money for their medical expenses, they will need to file a car accident personal injury claim for damages. In their claim, they will allege the other driver acted negligently by driving while under the influence of marijuana. Their actions caused an accident, and the victim has suffered injuries.

Many victims may not consider filing a personal injury claim. All they want to do is get back to their regular life and put the accident behind them. Unfortunately, that could leave the injured person with massive medical bills and, without collecting compensation from the at-fault driver, they could be responsible for covering those bills.

That is why it is vital for any car accident injury victim to speak with a lawyer right away. Their lawyer may be able to get them compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost income
  • Lost earning potential
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of life enjoyment
  • Present and future medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation costs

Even for minor injuries, medical bills can quickly pile up. If an injury prevents a person from going back to work, even for a brief time, that can severely affect the person’s ability to cover their regular expenses, let alone their massive medical bills. That is why it is so important that car accident victims speak with a lawyer immediately. None of the medical bills should be the victim’s burden. That should be the entire burden of the at-fault driver.

When a person can no longer work because of the injuries they suffered, that puts additional strain and pressure on them. Because they will likely need extensive medical treatment and potentially ongoing medical care, they may have serious concerns about how they pay their bills. But this should not be their burden to bear, and it should not be their worry. Their only concern needs to be their health and well-being. The financial concerns should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the negligent driver. To achieve that goal, the injured person needs a trusted legal advisor fighting for them.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Protect Victims’ Rights

In many cases, severe car accidents cause injuries that can linger for months or years. Getting over these injuries and getting back to your regular life can be a serious challenge. Many victims are saddled with astronomical medical bills as a result of an accident that someone else caused. If you suspect your car accident has been caused by a driver under the influence of marijuana, you may have legal options for collecting compensation for your injuries. To find out for sure, speak with the experienced Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. When you have a legal advocate on your side, fighting to protect your rights, you can shift your focus to your healing, working toward the goal of making a full and complete recovery. Call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.