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Will the Approval of Marijuana in Texas Impact Traffic Accident Statistics?

Posted on behalf of Stephens, Anderson & Cummings on Mar 21, 2014 in Auto Accidents

A new poll by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune has found that most Texans support the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use and most would also support it for recreational purposes.

While the debate rages on about the benefits of medical marijuana, others are questioning the potential side effects. It is believed that marijuana impairs drivers much of the same way alcohol does. A person who consumes marijuana will suffer from impaired judgment, distorted vision, distractions and reduced inhibitions.

However, marijuana impairment can be much more difficult to detect. Although police officers can look for certain clues such as red, agitated eyes, cognitive impairment and slowed speech, there are no accurate testing methods. Additionally, the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, lingers in the body, which means consumption could have been hours or days ago.

What concerns our Fort Worth accident lawyers is how marijuana consumption will affect the number of traffic fatalities. According to a recent study by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, fatal crashes involving marijuana use have tripled since 1999.

The study looked into accidents that occurred between 1999 and 2010, which was a decade in which the legal use and sale of marijuana increased significantly. The findings indicated that the increase occurred among all age groups and in both sexes.

Colorado, one of two states that has approved recreational use of marijuana, has also passed a strict law indicating that a person with .05 nanogram's of THC in their system is considered intoxicated. Although the law has been highly controversial, an argument can be made that the limit was necessary to make sure people do not abuse the system.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry announced in January 2014 that he supports decriminalization of marijuana, which represents a significant shift potentially toward some type of legalization. If Texas voters do vote toward approving the use and sale of marijuana, either medically or recreationally, the next top priority must be laws and perceptions on impaired driving.