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Federal Officials Weigh in on Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana

Amid the ongoing debate surrounding marijuana legalization, one of the top concerns has been how marijuana use impacts roadway safety. In states that already legalize marijuana for recreational use, and in states that are debating new laws, roadway safety has been a top priority - and it’s often a reason to block legislation. Based on newly released data from federal officials, however, these concerns may not be fully grounded on facts.

According to a new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers who use marijuana have a much lower risk of being involved in a car accident than drivers who use alcohol. The study adds considerable evidence to the national conversation about marijuana DUIs and whether marijuana use can increase preventable accidents, injuries, and deaths.

Here are some other findings from the NHTSA study:

  • Motorists who tested positive for marijuana were no more likely to be involved in a collision than drivers who did not use drugs or alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
  • There was no statistically significant change in crash risks for marijuana and other legal or illegal drugs, including anti-depressants, painkillers, and stimulants.
  • Alcohol impairment - at the BAC threshold of .05 or more - increases odds of a crash by nearly seven times.

The study is raising awareness about the fact that it’s difficult to determine when a motorist who uses marijuana can be considered “too high to drive.” It also highlights the fact that law enforcement need better detection methods and technology to determine when a marijuana user poses a legitimate risk on the road. For example, marijuana can be detected in a regular user’s system days or weeks after use - even when they display no effects or impairment.

Although the study has renewed national conversation about improving laws and enforcement of marijuana DUIs, it’s important to not be misled into thinking driving after using marijuana isn’t dangerous. A number of studies have found evidence that marijuana impairs skills key to driving, especially when a driver uses marijuana just before or while operating a vehicle.

In Texas, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, meaning that drivers can be held accountable if they cause accidents after using marijuana. Victims and families still have the right to pursue compensation on the basis that these drivers were negligent.

If you have questions about your rights after an auto accident - including those involving impaired drivers - Tom Rhodes Law Firm P.C. is here to help. To speak with an auto accident attorney about your case, call our firm for a free case review.