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NHTSA: Marijuana increasingly a factor in fatal crashes

The dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol are well documented. However, research shows that the number of "drugged driver" accidents is on the rise.

Marijuana is the most common drug found in the systems of drivers involved in these accidents. Arizona legalized the drug for medical use, but people authorized to use it must also avoid driving while under the influence.

According to Dr. Guohua Li, a researcher from Columbia University, if drivers involved in deadly car accidents were tested for traces of marijuana, one out of every nine drivers would test positive. Li added that combining alcohol and marijuana increased the risk of death of the impaired driver 24 times more than a driver not under the influence of that combination of substances.

In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration collected fatal-accident data from six states from 1999 through 2010, and the data showed the following results for about 23,500 drivers who died within an hour of an auto collision:

  • The percentage of fatal accidents attributed to drunk driving -- about 40 percent --remained roughly the same throughout the 10-year span.
  • Drug-related fatalities increased from 16 percent to 28 percent.
  • Marijuana was the most prevalent drug blamed for the deaths, increasing from 4 percent to 12 percent.

Whether used for medicinal or recreational purposes, and whether used legally or not, marijuana can diminish a driver's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.  As with any legal controlled substance, people who have a legal right to use marijuana must use it responsibly. Unfortunately, when individuals fail in that duty, others' lives are placed at risk.

To learn more about the available legal options after a fatal accident involving drugs or alcohol, please visit our personal injury website.

Source: Medical Daily, "Driving Under The Influence Of Marijuana: Fatal Pot-Related Car Crashes Triple Over 10 Years," Lizette Borelli, Feb. 5, 2014

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Law Office of Keith A. Hammond, P.C.

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