In July 2014, the first recreational marijuana stores opened here and researchers have since found that nearly one in five daytime drivers may be under the influence of pot.
Drivers impaired by a mixture of alcohol and drugs, usually pot — so-called poly-drug drivers — have become the most prevalent type of impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes in Washington.
The range of findings is detailed in a 47-page report by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission titled “Marijuana Use, Alcohol Use, and Driving in Washington State, Emerging Issues With Poly-Drug Use on Washington Roadways.” The report was published in April 2018.
Estimates have varied regarding the risks posed to drivers who have consumed marijuana, or more specifically, the effects of the ingredient in marijuana known as THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. That’s the ingredient that gets you high.
The effects THC has on drivers
A key in the Washington State report is the effect on motor and mental skills of a driver who has combined alcohol with the psychoactive properties of marijuana’s THC. One point that studies agree on is that giving alcohol to drivers who are already compromised by THC will only inflate the level of that risk.
Here are some findings from the Washington State report about marijuana-involved car accidents:
- Driver impairment due to alcohol or drugs or both is involved in nearly half of all traffic fatalities.
- Among drivers involved in fatal crashes from 2008-2016 who were blood tested for intoxicants, 61 percent were positive for alcohol and/or drugs.
- The most common substance in “poly-drug” drivers is alcohol, followed by THC. Alcohol and THC combined is the most common combination.
- For the first time in 2012, poly-drug drivers became the most prevalent type of impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes. Since 2012, the number of poly-drug drivers involved in fatal crashes has increased an average of 15 percent a year.
- By 2016, the number of poly-drug drivers more than doubled the number of alcohol-only drivers and was five times higher than the number of THC-only drivers involved in fatal crashes.
- Nearly one in five daytime drivers may be under the influence of marijuana, up from less than one in 10 drivers before the onset of recreational marijuana sales.
- More than half, 53 percent, of drivers ages 15-20 believe marijuana use made their driving better.
- Among drivers who have used marijuana in the past year, 36.6 percent believe that it is very likely or likely that marijuana impairs a person’s ability to drive safely if used within two hours of driving. That’s compared to 77 percent of drivers who have not used marijuana in the previous year.
- 5 percent of drivers who have used marijuana in the past year believe it is very likely or likely that a driver will be arrested for impaired driving after using marijuana within two hours of driving.
- Drivers who admit to driving within three hours of marijuana use were more likely to drive after having perhaps too much to drink, not always wear a seatbelt or binge drink.
- One in four 12th graders, one in six 10th graders, and one in 10 students in 8th-grade report riding in a car with a driver who had been using marijuana.
Contact the Scott Law Firm PLLC in Vancouver and Southwest Washington today for help with car accidents involving marijuana use, as well as for help with other car, truck and motorcycle crashes.