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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Studies show drug-positive driving on the rise

Washington motorists may be interested to learn that the number of drivers who were found to be under the influence of marijuana has increased while the number of drivers who drove while under the influence of alcohol has decreased. According to a study, the percentage of drivers under the influence of alcohol decreased 77 percent from 1973 to 2014. The number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana increased by 50 percent.

The findings were the results of studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission. The results regarding the number of drug-positive drivers in the 2013-2014 study was particularly worrying as almost 9 percent of daytime drivers and 13 percent of nighttime drivers had THC, the psychedelic component of marijuana, in their system. Even more worrying, it was found that 22 percent of daytime drivers and 23 percent of nighttime drivers had drugs in their system.

According to a scientist with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, alcohol and marijuana have different impacts on drivers. For example, alcohol can cause drivers to operate their vehicles in an unsafe manor, such as running through red lights. Those driving under the influence of marijuana, on the other hand, may not be able to respond quickly and effectively to unexpected events.

Many drivers are not aware that DUI does not just mean alcohol. In fact, a Washington resident can be charged if he or she is driving under the influence of any drug, even a drug that the person has a prescription for. As such, those accused of impaired driving with a drug in their system can still face severe legal consequences. A criminal law attorney might, however, challenge a marijuana-related arrest on the basis that there is as yet no real reliable roadside test for that type of impairment.

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