Since 2006, nine states have legalized recreational marijuana and 20 states have legalized marijuana in some form for medical use. In addition, many municipalities are now decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, which effectively legalizes it in those municipalities even if it is still considered illegal in the state or by the federal government.
While widespread campaigns against drinking alcohol and driving have been going on for more than 30 years, messages about driving while under the influence of marijuana are not yet being heard to the same extent. It makes sense that more marijuana use would lead to more incidents of drugged driving, but the consequences for doing so are proving to be deadly in increasing numbers.
New Numbers Show Increases in Drugged Driving
A recent Governors Highway Association Report shows that over a 10-year period from 2006 to 2016, the number of drivers who tested positive for drug use in fatal car accidents rose dramatically, while the number of drivers who tested positive for alcohol use decreased modestly over the same time period.
In 2016, 43.6 percent of drivers tested after a fatal car accident had drugs in their system, compared to 27.8 percent in 2006. This is a 16 percent increase in drugged driving accidents in just 10 years–and those are only the fatal ones in which the drivers were tested. By comparison, 37.9 percent of drivers tested for alcohol had a positive result, compared to 41 percent in 2006.
What Drugged Driving Means
The governor’s report was quick to caution that drugged driving is not the same and cannot be handled the same way as driving under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol can be precisely measured in the blood and has a predictable level of impairment for those who use it, as well as a fairly consistent rate of metabolism by the body.
There are laws against driving under the influence of drugs in every state, but in many states, police are left to determine that the driver is impaired by observing their behavior, rather than by having a certain amount of drugs in their system. Some states have determined certain levels of certain drugs, particularly marijuana, to be illegal.
Colorado has a “permissible inference” law with a 5 ng/ml limit for marijuana, which is higher than many other states. It is also illegal to drive in Colorado if you are a habitual user of a controlled substance. It is important to know the laws in your state so that you can comply with them and avoid arrest and prosecution, even if your use of a particular substance is legal.
The bottom line is, drugged driving is always a risk for addicts and those with substance use disorder because one of the effects of impairment is often that you do not realize how impaired you are. A bad decision made under the influence of drugs or alcohol can have long-lasting consequences if your impairment leads to an accident that causes injury or death to another person (or yourself).
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake offers Colorado addiction treatment to help you avoid these and other serious consequences of drug and alcohol use. Contact us today to learn more!