Support for the legalization of marijuana has taken bold steps in recent years, with several states passing laws to legalize the recreational use of pot by adults, as well as many more passing legislation permitting individuals with medical needs to use cannabis. Among the many issues and concerns advocates and lawmakers must wade through when considering and supporting these measures are those related to safety on our roadways. Just as alcohol can be legalized and still pose risks when it is consumed by drivers, marijuana too can also impair motorists and pose risks of injuries to those with whom they share public roads and highways.
In recent years, there have been several studies that have focused on marijuana and accident risks. While sometimes conflicting, these studies have found some important results:
- In states where marijuana was recently legalized recreationally, including California and Washington, researchers from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety noted a 3% increase in insurance claims for vehicle collisions. While this increase may only represent a small spike in minor accidents and does not readily indicate marijuana use as a definitive cause of the spike, it does represent an increase following legalization.
- An American Journal of Public Health study found no difference in the rates of fatal auto accidents in Washington and Colorado, where pot is legal for recreational use, compared to states where recreational pot was not legal.
- Researchers have solidified that while impairment of any sort poses risks on roadways, marijuana use and its effect on accident rates pales in comparison to drunk driving and distracted driving, which can increase crash risks by as much as 23x, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
Although research is important to lawmakers weighing their options for legalizing marijuana, and developing new laws and enforcement protocol when they do, it bears reminding that driving under the influence of any drug, including alcohol, can be grounds for criminal prosecution. In Oklahoma, where possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor, and even in states where pot is legal, driving under the influence of marijuana is a crime.
The Rights of DUI Victims
Driving under the influence is a failure of a driver’s obligation to safely operate their vehicle, no matter if they are under the influence of a prescription medication, alcohol, or marijuana. As such, victims injured by drivers who were impaired at the time of a crash have the right to pursue a personal injury claim to hold the at-fault driver liable for their damages.
Although DUI accident cases commonly involve drivers being charged, tried, and convicted in criminal court, these criminal cases are handled separately from any personal injury matter. In order to recover compensation from the at-fault driver for things like medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering resulting from an accident, victims will need to pursue legal action in the civil justice system. These civil cases do not focus on whether or not a driver is guilty of a crime, but rather if they failed to uphold their legal duty, acted negligently, and caused harm as a result.
At the Law Offices of Dan Davis, our Oklahoma City personal injury lawyers have extensive experience protecting the rights of clients harmed in all types of car accidents, including those involving impaired drivers. Whether it be a drunk driving accident or an accident where drivers are under the influence of drugs, impaired motorists are considered negligent by law, and they can be held liable for the harm they cause. Our legal team investigates these cases meticulously, and presents clear and convincing evidence to establish fault and our clients’ rights to a full and fair recovery.
If you wish to discuss a car accident case, including a wreck involving an impaired driver, do not hesitate to contact us for a FREE consultation.