According to poppot.org, in 2016, when marijuana in Illinois was decriminalized, traffic deaths rose to 1,078. In previous years, this number was consistently below 1,000. This has some people wondering if the sudden increase could be a result of the state raising the legal limit of marijuana from zero THC to 5ng of THC.
Why Are the Number of Marijuana-Related DUI’s Increasing?
This could be the result of the false narrative “since it is legal; it is safe.” For decades, it has been drilled into our heads that we should not drink and drive. We are taught this from a young age, and most of us are deterred from partaking in drinking and driving because we fear the severe consequences. There are commercials, radio advertisements, and even signs plastered to the walls of our favorite local bars that remind us to be safe and not get behind the wheel when we have had one too many alcoholic beverages. But, have you ever seen a sign or advertisement encouraging you to not smoke marijuana and drive? The answer is most likely no.
The truth is, marijuana-related DUI’s are a huge threat to the citizens of Illinois. While we are in the beginning stages of this transition, we need to get ahead of the issue and take action before the number of injuries and deaths increases.
Is This Happening in Other States?
Yes. According to research done by AAA, in Washington state, there has been a very concerning number of drivers who were involved in fatal automobile crashes, that later tested positive for having THC in their bloodstream at the time of the accident. The number of these incidents in Washington has doubled since the state decriminalized marijuana in December of 2012. And although we have not seen an increase to quite that extent in our own state of Illinois, it does not mean that it is not something we should be extremely concerned about.
What Is the Relationship Between Marijuana and Driving?
You may or may not be surprised that the effect marijuana has on your ability to drive properly is not so different from the effect that alcohol has. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time.
What Are Some Issues We Run into With DUI’s Related To THC Intoxication?
Unlike alcohol, which can completely disappear from your system after 7-14 hours, depending on your body composition and age, marijuana can be detected in bodily fluids for up to several weeks after initial intoxication. Because of this, it is difficult to get accurate numbers in reporting car accidents linked directly to marijuana use. And although the increase in fatal crashes in Illinois needs to be taken very seriously, this discrepancy in testing can account for a lot of excuses made by policymakers to not take DUI’s related to marijuana more seriously.