The issue of driving while impaired by marijuana

Voters in Washington and Colorado have determined that legalizing certain amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use is an advisable idea. However, particular consequences of increased marijuana use among the general adult population are proving to be less than ideal. For example, many lawmakers, experts and safety advocates are concerned that accidents resulting from motorists choosing to drive while impaired by marijuana will soon become as ubiquitous as drunk driving accidents.

This is a particularly concerning potential trend, given that driving while impaired by any substance, legal or illegal, can endanger one’s own life as well as the lives of fellow motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. While states have fairly uniform drunk driving laws and little tolerance for this behavior, states are fairly scattered in the ways in which they deal with motorists who are impaired by marijuana usage.

In addition, it is oftentimes more difficult to spot, catch and hold motorists accountable when they are impaired by the active ingredient in marijuana. According to the New York Times, field sobriety tests are roughly 88 percent accurate in determining whether or not a driver is drunk. However, these tests are only 30 percent accurate in determining whether or not a motorist is stoned, according to a study published in the professional journal Psychopharmacology back in 2012.

Recreational marijuana use may be the new normal in Washington. But unfortunately, stoned drivers may also become the new normal if significant efforts are not made to identify, catch and hold stoned drivers accountable for their choices.

Source: New York Times, “Driving Under the Influence, of Marijuana,” Maggie Koerth-Baker, Feb. 17, 2014

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