The War on Drugs

Study: Tripling of Fatal Car Crashes Involving Marijuana


As Marijuana Becomes More Common, Related Traffic Injury Reports Rise

A study conducted by the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University concludes that the amount of fatal car crashes that involve marijuana have tripled in recent years. Director of the Center Dr. Guohua Li stated: “Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana.”

Data for the study was gathered from toxicology reports from six states: Hawaii, California, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Illinois. The data included 23,500 drivers who died within one hour of a crash over the span of time from 1999 to 2010. The study also concluded that alcohol contributed to at least 40 percent of fatalities throughout that period of time.

Researchers concluded that drugs have played an increased role in traffic accidents that lead to death. Marijuana was found as the main drug which was implicated in the increase. It was alleged to have contributed to 12 percent of fatal crashes, compared to 4 percent in 1999.

“If a driver is under the influence of alcohol, their risk of a fatal crash is 13 times higher than the risk of the driver who is not under the influence of alcohol,” Li said. “But if the driver is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, their risk increased to 24 times that of a sober person.”

Jan Withers of Mothers Against Drunk Driving released a statement that said: “MADD is concerned anytime we hear about an increase in impaired driving, since it’s 100 percent preventable,” Withers said. “When it comes to drugged driving versus drunk driving, the substances may be different but the consequences are the same – needless deaths and injuries.”

Deputy Executive Director of the Governors Highway Safety Association Jonathan Adkins stated that marijuana impairs driving in much the same way that alcohol does. “It’s a wake-up call for us in highway safety,” Adkins said. “The legalization of pot is going to spread to other states. It’s not even a partisan issue at this point. Our expectation is this will become the norm rather than the rarity.”

Currently there are no accurate tests similar to a breathalyzer to test drivers for marijuana influence. Dr. Li, who conducted the study said that “In the case of marijuana, I would say in maybe five years or more you will see some testing method or technique that may not as accurate as the Breathalyzer, but is more accurate than the testing devices we have today.”

Current research studies on testing marijuana levels using breath have proved mostly inconclusive, due to the fact that testing is only accurate when someone submits to a test within 30 minutes of smoking the drug. “Breath may offer an alternative matrix for testing for recent driving under the influence of cannabis, but is limited to a short detection window,” researchers concluded in a study titled “Cannabinoids in Exhaled Breath following Controlled Administration of Smoked Cannabis.”

The Libertarian Republic is firmly committed to a policy of total drug legalization across the board and across the entire United States. We are also committed to a full airing of the facts according to reputable scientific studies and research. If libertarians wish to make a strong case for legalization, then studies such as this will have to be understood and dealt with appropriately in order to make the case to the public as to why legalization is a safer and more ethical alternative to the prohibition of drugs.

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