Marijuana's effect on driving impairment still not understood

Although police and public safety officials are cracking down on DUID, there is plenty of debate about what effect marijuana has on driving.

Some studies suggest driving high is safer than driving while drunk

Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use, police and public officials have been keen to warn motorists about the dangers of driving while high. Patrol officers regularly cite drivers for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID), which often leads members of the public to assume that there is an equivalency in the risks posed by stoned and drunk drivers. However, as KUSA News reported earlier this year, scientific studies show that the risks posed by driving high may not be as serious as driving drunk. Indeed, citing motorists for driving under the influence of marijuana has become highly controversial as marijuana laws across the nation continue to be the focus of reform efforts.

Safer or more dangerous?

The science behind stoned driving can sometimes appear contradictory, with some studies claiming driving high is inherently dangerous while other studies have suggested that marijuana use actually makes drivers safer. One survey conducted in Virginia, for example, found that people who use marijuana were more likely to be involved in a crash, according to CBS News.

While that result may seem to suggest marijuana use is dangerous while behind the wheel, the connection is undermined by the fact that marijuana users tend to be young men. Young men, regardless of whether they consume marijuana or not, are already at a higher likelihood of being involved in an accident. Additionally, another study found that drivers high on marijuana tended to slow down and be more cautious about engaging in risky maneuvers.

Cracking down on DUID

Law enforcement agencies both in Colorado and in other states tend to treat DUID as being similar to a DUI. However, there are problems with the comparison. For one, determining whether a driver is even under the influence of drugs can be difficult. Marijuana can remain in a person's body for days, even weeks, after a person originally consumes the drug, meaning a police blood test could result in a charge of DUID even if the driver was not physically impaired by marijuana at the time of his or her arrest.

Furthermore, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, THC concentration levels themselves are not a reliable measure for determining whether a driver is impaired by marijuana use. People react to marijuana in different ways and a habitual smoker may have higher THC levels in his system, but actually be less impaired than a driver who has just smoked marijuana for the first time.

DUID defense

As the above story shows, there are many possible defenses against a potential DUID charge. Anybody accused of DUID should reach out to a criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss what may be the possible ways to respond to such charges. By relying on expert legal advice, people facing a criminal charge can help minimize the negative impact these charges might otherwise have.

Keywords: drugged, driving, arrest, penalties