Fatal crashes involving marijuana significantly increased in states where the drug has been legalized, according to AAA.
The auto club's Foundation for Traffic Safety Research said deadly crashes involving drivers who had recently used marijuana doubled in Washington after the state made it legal at the end of 2012.
“The significant increase in fatal crashes involving marijuana is alarming,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Washington serves as an eye-opening case study for what other states may experience with road safety after legalizing the drug.”
Researchers found that the percentage of drivers in deadly crashes with a level of active THC, the main chemical component in marijuana, in their blood had doubled. The numbers went from 8 percent to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014.
AAA said its research also showed there is no science that shows drivers reliably become impaired at a specific level of marijuana in the blood, which could result in unsafe drivers going free and others being wrongfully convicted for impaired driving.
In addition, AAA said a driver's THC level may drop to below a legal threshold in the time it takes police to administer a traffic stop and take a blood sample.
It said the drug affects people differently, making it a challenge to develop fair guidelines.
“States need valid impairment measures and consistent, fair and effective enforcement guidelines to ensure that the increased use of marijuana does not impact the safety of drivers or anyone else with whom they share the road,” said Amy Parmenter, an AAA spokesperson.
Washington and Colorado were the first states to legalize pot for recreational use. Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia followed suit.
Twenty other states, including Connecticut, legalized it for its medicinal properties.
Connecticut was also one of 20 states to have considered legalizing marijuana this year.
“There is understandably a strong desire by lawmakers and the public to create legal limits for marijuana impairment in the same manner as we do with alcohol,” Parmenter said. “But, in the case of marijuana, it’s simply not possible, at this point, to determine whether a driver is impaired based solely on the amount of the drug in his or her body.”
AAA recommended rather than relying on arbitrary legal limits, use a two-component system that requires a positive test for recent marijuana use and tests for behavioral and physiological evidence of driver impairment.
For more information on this research and other topics, head to the foundation's website here.
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