The LA Times recently reported, in California, nearly 1,000 deaths and injuries each year are blamed directly on drivers under the influence of drugs. Law enforcement blames the increase in medical marijuana use in the last decade. Fatal crashes where drugs were the primary cause and alcohol was not involved spiked 55% over the 10 year period ending in 2009.
The most recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 16.3% of all drivers nationwide at night were on various legal and illegal impairing drugs, half them high on marijuana.
Thirteen states have adopted zero-tolerance laws, but 35 states including California have no legal limit and instead rely on the judgment of police to determine the level of the driver’s impairment. Determining impairment raises complex medical issues about whether residual low levels of marijuana can impair a driver days after the drug is smoked. One thing is for sure: As medical marijuana use continues to increase, California will have to develop comprehensive guidelines for marijuana impairment in order to keep us safe on the road.