After alcohol, marijuana is the substance that is most connected to impaired driving. Yet, little data is available on the effect of marijuana and other drugs on drivers and their role in motor vehicle accidents.
Medical marijuana is legal in Florida and 21 other states. Eleven states have also legalized its recreational use.
Marijuana impaired driving has severe consequences. Speeding was involved in approximately 36 percent of fatal marijuana-related accidents compared to 26 percent of cases where drivers did not have alcohol or drugs in their system, according to the federal Fatality Reporting System.
Delta nine THC is the substance in marijuana that causes the brain’s psychoactive response and impairment. THC is different than alcohol because it is a lipid soluble or is stored in the brain.
Legalization may give drivers a false sense of security. But THC affects many of the brain’s functions involving short-term memory, coordination, and unconscious muscle movements. This may impede the ability to drive, perform safety-related functions or handle equipment.
Different marijuana strains have varying effects. Sativa, for example, gives users energy and increased focus and perception. But it also causes hallucinations.
Flowers, oil wax, oral edibles or other forms take different times for the body to metabolize or absorb. Concentration levels in marijuana also have a serious impact on impairment. These can range from three to six percent in THC to almost 30 percent in flower and 94 percent in some oils.
Some drug evaluation reports indicate that speeding was the main reason that motorists were stopped when marijuana was the only drug they ingested. Because marijuana gives a false sense of time and distance, drivers believed they were going slower than the higher speeds that they were driving. This may also cause drivers to drive slower which may be more hazardous.
Substantial progress has been made against drunk driving. But marijuana impairment is harder to identify by police at roadside stops compared to alcohol. Unlike drunk driving, no standardized tests exist for marijuana impairment. Police have begun to look for physiological signs such as droopy eyelids, nodding off, paranoia or bloodshot watery eyes.
Victims of an caused by an impaired driver, or their families, may be entitled to compensation and damages. An attorney can seek evidence and work with victims to pursue this right in court and negotiations.