Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP
“A recent study, released by the University of Colorado School of Medicine, indicates that the number of drivers under the influence of marijuana has jumped drastically since the drug was commercialized in that state in 2009. This problem could well be happening in Texas,” says Brooks Schuelke, a personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke LLP in Austin. The numbers used to conduct the Colorado study were taken from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for the period from 1994 to 2011. There are 21 states with medical marijuana laws, plus D.C. Texas is not one of those states.
Colorado’s information showed that at the beginning of their research, which included the first six-months of 1994, fatal car accidents with at least one driver under the influence of cannabis was 4.5 percent. By the end of their research timeline, the last six months of 2011, the percentage had skyrocketed to 10 percent. This study echoes another done in 2011 by Columbia University, authored by Dr. Guoha Li, a professor of epidemiology. This study examined nine other larger drugged driving studies.
“The result was that drivers who tested positive for cannabis within three hours of using were more than twice as likely to be in a collision. An added revelation was that the risk of a wreck was higher if the cannabis levels in the urine were higher,” adds Schuelke.
Over the last decade, many studies of this nature have been presented to the public without any compelling conclusive data that smoking up does increase the risk of a collision by two or three times. Chuck Farmer, the director of statistics at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that the vast majority of studies relating to marijuana use and driving do indicate it has a “very strong bad effect on driving.”
While it does appear that cannabis consumption may affect reaction time and a driver’s coordination, the jury is still out as to whether or not it may depend on the amount of the drug consumed and just how it was consumed. “Which may be a red herring,” suggests Schuelke, “as being impaired is being impaired in the eyes of the law. Whether that is alcohol or cannabis, if an accident happens because a driver chose to negligently consume a substance that impaired their ability to drive safely, they must still be held responsible for their actions.”