New Evidence Suggests Pot Legalization Might Promote Drugged Driving Accidents
Georgia lawmakers are considering legalization of medical marijuana although a number of other states rejected pot legalization measures during the recent mid-term election. While the legalization of pot for both medical and recreational use has become a growing trend, new evidence suggests that Georgia might experience negative consequences in terms of DUI traffic-related injuries and fatalities if it takes this step.
Negative data coming out of Colorado has started to reverse the trend against the legalization movement. Ballot measures in several states intended to legalize marijuana were defeated in the recent midterm elections. Further, a recent Gallup poll revealed that support for decriminalizing pot has fallen from 58 percent last year to 51 percent this year.
Policymakers in Georgia might want to evaluate the reason for these changing attitudes. Colorado’s experiment has resulted in a 100 percent increase in cannabis positive traffic-fatalities since recreational use of the drug was legalized. This increase occurred in the context of an overall decline in fatal motor vehicle accidents in the state. The rise in fatal auto accidents involving drivers who tested positive for pot is hardly surprising because of increased access to the drug.
Since alcohol is a legal drug, the convenience of its availability makes alcohol consumption common at sports events, parties, restaurants, bars and more. Tragically, this accessibility also means that motorists who elect not to drink responsibility cause 10,000 alcohol-related traffic fatalities annually. While it is too early to know for sure whether the spike in marijuana-related driving fatalities in Colorado is linked to similar availability and the lack of legal stigma, this is an issue that Georgia lawmakers should consider.
Pot is second only to alcohol as a cause of impaired driving accidents according to the journal of American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC). A 2009 study found that nearly 13 percent of young adults admitted driving after ingesting illicit drugs, and more drivers tested positive for drugs than alcohol in a 2007 National Roadside Survey. Further, regular users of cannabis were found to have a ten-fold higher probability of experiencing a car accident injury than infrequent or nonusers after adjustment for blood alcohol.
Marijuana can impair driving ability in many of the same ways as alcohol intoxication. Cannabis can impair driving ability in the following ways:
- Causing confusion
- Decreasing reaction times
- Distorting senses of sight and hearing
- Altering perception of time and space
- Impairing coordination
- Slowing the rate of information processing
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