‘Drugged driving’ reveals unwanted risk associated with use of medical marijuana

by Michael Pines, Accident & Injury Prevention Expert

Most Americans are aware of the dangers associated with drinking and driving. It’s unfortunate that many needless car accidents and cases of

personal injury

are often attributed to driving under the influence. But now, driving under the influence is no longer exclusive to the use of alcohol – as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points out in their

latest findings

, drivers under the influence of drugs, most notably medical marijuana, have spurred an increase of wrongful death on our roadways.

Drugs – either prescription or otherwise – have unfortunately impaired the performance of many drivers behind the wheel, contributing to a staggering 55 percent increase in car accident fatalities from 1999 to 2009, primarily arising from deliberate drug use. And while trendy drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin may come to mind as immediate dangers from behind the wheel, it’s in fact the use of medical marijuana that concerns safety officials most.

In their latest report surrounding the findings, the NHTSA and supporting law enforcement officials argue that drug-related

car accidents

are considerably more common in states like California which allow the use of medical marijuana. In fact, our state alone attributes more than 1,000 road fatalities due to drug-related accidents each year.

Regulating a driver’s drug use

The use of medical marijuana can invariably find its way behind the wheel. Unfortunately, the inability to properly measure levels of marijuana in its users permits for lax laws that fail to govern safe roadways. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, scientists have very little in terms of technology to help support the regulated use of medical marijuana from behind the wheel.

Regardless of scientists’ ability to measure levels of marijuana in a driver’s blood stream or breath, common sense and unfortunate practice have inadvertently demonstrated the dangers of impaired driving – regardless the drug or alcohol of choice. Thousands of people die in car accidents each year, either as an impaired driver or an innocent standby.

But, most importantly, the public is urged to remember that drug- and alcohol-related car accidents are 100 percent preventable. Consider the following car safety tips today to avoid an accident tomorrow.

  • If you are a medical marijuana user, do not get behind the wheel even if you feel confident in your driving abilities. No level of impairment is safe.
  • Never drink and drive, or share a vehicle in which you may suspect the driver has had something to drink. A recent study at the University of San Diego suggests no level of alcohol is safe behind the wheel.
  • Call 911 if you see or suspect a drunk driver on the road. Be sure to pull over and make the call safely.
  • Prepay a taxi cab ride if you intend to go to any event or night out where alcohol is served and consumed.
  • Remind young drivers in your family of the responsibility that comes with driving: this includes the responsibility to arrange for designated drivers in the event alcohol is consumed, and to never take the wheel if medical marijuana is used.

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