Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Marijuana
You might have noticed recently the growing debate about legalizing marijuana. Four states—Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington—have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years and older, while twenty other states, including Illinois and Michigan, have legalized the use of medical marijuana. Some of the effects of these changes in law are starting to be revealed, including the rise of car crashes involving people with marijuana in their system.
In 2010, over 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. What is more, drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine) are involved in about 18% of motor vehicle driver deaths. These other drugs are often used in combination with alcohol, which makes for a doubly-impaired driver.
Driving under the influence of marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time. Although the observable effects of drug-impairment are different than alcohol-impairment, drug-impaired drivers are many times more likely to drive unsafely than drug-free drivers.
Just as blood tests can be done to confirm the use of alcohol, they can also be done to confirm the use of marijuana. However, the concentration of alcohol in the blood dissipates at a much faster rate than the concentration of marijuana in the blood. For example, blood alcohol concentration can fall back to zero in a number of hours, whereas marijuana drug-components can stay in your system for a week or more, even when there are no longer impairment effects from the drug. This can make it hard for law enforcement to determine if a particular driver was driving impaired as a result of the effects of the drug or not.
Regardless, driving impaired, whether by alcohol or marijuana, amounts to careless conduct. In either case, it is as if you are driving with your brain disengaged. We’ve handled several cases involving car crashes caused by impaired drivers. If you were in an accident with an impaired driver and would like to speak with an attorney, feel free to call us at 219-736-9700 with your questions.