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Study Shows Growing Number of Drivers Killed in Crashes Found to have used Marijuana

pot.jpgMarijuana use is legal in Colorado and Washington. With the potential for increased tax revenues and a gradual shift in societal views, more states may likely follow in legalizing the recreational drug.

While there may be debate to be made for and against marijuana, there is a tangible effect of the drug to consider: an apparent increased risk for fatal motor vehicle accidents.

According to a study conducted by Columbia University, the number of drivers who died in crashes and tested positive for pot tripled between 1999 and 2010. The findings, released earlier this year, followed a review of accidents in which 23,000 drivers were killed in that time. The study looked at six states in which drug testing occurs within one hour after a fatal accident.

To be sure, alcohol ranked far ahead of any substance in fatal driver accidents, found in almost 40 percent of all driver deaths. That fatal drunk driving rate remained pretty much steady between 1999 and 2010.

By comparison, in 2010, 12 percent of dead drivers were found to have marijuana in their system. But that’s up from 4.2 percent in 1999. Who knows if it will increase even more dramatically as additional states allow public marijuana use. And how many people will die in addition to the drugged drivers?

This is not a judgment on voters who legalize pot. Widespread marijuana use, however, is just one more issue that may increase fatal motor vehicle crashes, just as distracted driving has.

Fatal trucking accidents and fatal car crashes often are complicated. Drugged drivers are just one contributing cause. That’s why if a loved one was killed in a car or truck crash, you may want to consult with an attorney. He or she will work to hold accountable all those responsible for your tragic loss.