There’s been a string of deaths related to impaired drivers in Washoe County this summer. That’s amidst one of the deadliest years on record on Reno’s roadways overall. It was in August that two Sparks residents were killed in Reno after their car rolled when a male driver who ran a red light struck it. He was later found to be under the influence of alcohol. That’s just one of the recent fatal accidents but area law enforcement officials say those statistics would rise if recreational marijuana use becomes legal in the state.
That’s what happened in Colorado. During the first year marijuana was available in retail stores, 94 people died in crashes where a driver involved tested positive for some amount of marijuana, according to the third annual marijuana legalization impact study released by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. That’s up from 71 in 2013, 78 in 2012 and 66 in 2011.
“In 2009 when medical marijuana took effect, about 10 percent of all our traffic fatalities were marijuana related,” said Tom Gorman, director of Rocky Mountain HIDTA, noting that it’s now 19 percent. Gorman said with greater legalization more people are going to use marijuana, which will cause an even greater upward trend.
As we wrote in an earlier post, fatal crashes involving drivers in Washington state who recently used marijuana has doubled after the state legalized recreational use in December of 2012, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Data also shows that while one in six drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 had recently used marijuana, because legal limits for marijuana and driving are arbitrary and unsupported by science, unsafe motorists could go without penalty while others could be wrongfully convicted from impaired driving.
“The significant increase in fatal crashes involving marijuana is alarming,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the foundation. “Washington serves as an eye-opening case study for what other states may experience with road safety after legalizing the drug.”
What’s more, other statistical data shows that marijuana and alcohol routinely appear together in DUI drivers, which results in dramatically impaired driving performance. Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, alcohol sales have risen, proving that legalization of marijuana serves to encourage greater use of both impairing substances. And when combined, they interact to impair driving to a greater degree.
A report by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that marijuana is actually the most common drug that is used, according to roadside surveys, and found in fatally injured drivers.
With at least 20 states considering marijuana legalization this year, all these findings raise serious concerns about drug-impaired driving from marijuana use and show that those who switch from alcohol to marijuana because they think it’s “safer” are sorely mistaken. They also demonstrate that the more recreational marijuana is legalized, the more life-threatening automobile accidents will occur.