Is the legalization of marijuana leading to more drugged driving accidents?

In recent years, marijuana has enjoyed renewed popularity as states take action to legally sanction its use. To date, a total of 23 states plus our nation's capital have passed legislation making the use of pot legal for medical purposes. Four other states have also legalized the recreational use of the drug.

Regardless of one's personal views about marijuana, its legalization and growing popularity does raise certain public safety concerns. According to WebMD, both physical and psychological side effects are commonly associated with the use of the drug including dizziness, slowed reaction time, random thinking, short-term forgetfulness and a distorted sense of time. According to studies, these side effects as well as others contribute to an increased likelihood that stoned drivers may cause or be involved in a motor vehicle accident.

One such study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, indicates that motor vehicle accidents involving stoned drivers have increased threefold during the past decade. This information, coupled with that gleaned from another recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has raised concerns about the dangers of stoned driving as well as driving under the influence of other drugs including prescription drugs.

For the NHTSA Roadside Survey, over the course of nearly one year, a researcher asked more than 9,000 drivers questions related to their alcohol and drug use as well as whether either was a factor for those individuals who admitted to being involved in an accident. While, at eight percent, the number of drivers who admitted to drinking alcohol and driving was a record low; those who admitted to using marijuana and driving increased 50 percent since 2007.

Any substance that alters how an individual thinks and processes information is likely to impact how he or she performs certain activities. This is especially the case when a drug's side effects also include physiological changes like slowed reaction time and loss of coordination.

Source: Digital Journal, "Fewer drivers on alcohol but more using marijuana and driving," Marcus Hondro, Feb. 8, 2015

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