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Pot Fuels Surge In Drugged Driving Deaths


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During each shift at her drive-through window, once an hour, Cordelia Cordova sees people rolling joints in their cars. Some blow smoke in her face and smile. Cordova, who lost a 23-year-old niece and her 1-month-old son to a driver who admitted he smoked pot that day, never smiles back. She thinks legal marijuana in Colorado, where she works, is making the problem of drugged driving worse — and now new research supports her claim. "Nobody hides it anymore when driving," Cordova said. "They think it's a joke because it’s legal. Nobody will take this seriously until somebody loses another loved one."


 


As medical marijuana sales expanded into 20 states, legal weed was detected in the bodies of dead drivers three times more often during 2010 when compared to those who died behind the wheel in 1999, according to a new study from Columbia University published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.


 


“The trend suggests that marijuana is playing an increased role in fatal crashes,” said Dr. Guohua Li, a co-author and director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center. The researchers examined data from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), spanning more than 23,000 drivers killed during that 11-year period.


 


Alcohol remains, by far, the most common mind-altering substance detected in dead drivers, observed in the blood of nearly 40 percent of those who perished across six states during 2010, the Columbia study notes. (That rate remained stable between 1999 and 2010.)


 


Cannabinol, a remnant of marijuana, was found in 12.2 percent of those deceased drivers during 2010, (up from 4.2 percent in 1999). Pot was the most common non-alcoholic drug detected by those toxicology screenings. “The increased availability of marijuana and increased acceptance of marijuana use” are fueling the higher rate of cannabinol found in dead drivers, Li told NBC News.


 


Researchers limited their analysis to California and five others states where toxicology screenings are routinely conducted within an hour of a traffic death. They note that California allowed medical marijuana in 2004. Since then, California has posted “marked increases in driver fatalities testing positive for marijuana,” Li said.


 


"The number of deaths will grow," Cordova said. "I'm scared." Minutes after the crash that killed Cordova's niece, Tanya Guevara, and Guevara's 5-week-old son, police arrested the driver who struck Guevara's car. Steven Ryan, then 22, admitted to smoking pot earlier that day, according to court records. Ryan later pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2012.


 


That same year, Cordova testified before Colorado lawmakers about a proposed impairment limit for stoned drivers. Under Colorado law today, drivers who test positive for 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC — an active ingredient in marijuana — can be charged and punished as drunk drivers.


 


That law has not, however, led Howard Myers to feel safer on local roads. He, too, takes the issue personally: In 2002, his three children were seriously injured when their car was struck by a driver who, Myers said, had smoked marijuana a short time earlier. (A police record provided by Myers showed that oncoming driver was charged with vehicular assault). Myers' children were returning from school to their home near Colorado Springs. All three now are adults and their injuries have become chronic, Myers said. His daughter, who was driving, receives physical therapy for neck and back pain. One of his sons is recovering from a traumatic brain injury. Another son had a leg partially amputated. "The attitude here is it's safe," Myers said. "So more people are driving under the influence.”


 


But marijuana can be detected in the blood for one week after consumption, perhaps leading chronic consumers to be wrongly arrested, critics of the law assert. A separate study — also based on FARS data — found that in states where medical marijuana was approved, traffic fatalities decrease by as much as 11 percent during the first year after legalization. Written by researchers at the University of Colorado, Oregon and Montana State University, the paper was published in 2013 in the Journal of Law & Economics. Those authors theorized pot, for some, becomes a substitute for alcohol. They cited a recent, 13-percent drop in drunk-driving deaths in states where medical marijuana is legal. “Marijuana reform is associated with … a decrease in traffic fatalities, most likely due to its impact on alcohol consumption,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a trade association in Colorado.


 


Overall, though, drugged driving is closing the gap with drunk driving. The rate of traffic deaths in which drivers tested positive for non-alcohol drugs climbed from 16.6 percent in 1999 to 28.3 percent in 2010, according to the Columbia study.


 


Among dead male drivers, 4.0 tested positive for narcotics in 2010, up from 2.2 percent in 1999. Among female drivers killed, 7.6 percent tested positive for narcotics, up from 4.3 percent. “If the current trends continue,” Li said, “non-alcohol drugs, such as marijuana, will overtake alcohol in traffic fatalities around 2020.”


 


Original article here.


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They note that California allowed medical marijuana in 2004. Since then, California has posted “marked increases in driver fatalities testing positive for marijuana,” Li said.

 

i dunno, get simple facts wrong like californias 1996 mmj law? i dont have much hope for the rest of your research.

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so marijuana stays in the blood for 30-90 days, and more people are using marijuana, wouldnt it make sense that more people in crashes would test positive for marijuana use ?

I like the way you think.

 

Colorado's 5 ng/ml per se limit is ludicrous. If we can't keep a handle on this ours can look like their law. That is why I suggested the LARA overpayment that went to law enforcement should have been used to accurately study the effects.

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Unfortunately impairment is not yet easily determined with regards to cannabis, unlike alcohol. But I would still be quite interested in more details about these impaired drivers, especially how "cannabis experienced" they were and their ages. 

 

I am not in any way condoning stoned driving.

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I do think you can be impaired by smoking excessive amounts of cannabis. but not in the manner that you would be with alcohol. I think if one is going to get thoroughly baked we should have someone else drive. On smaller amounts I think the affects are much much more moderate than alcohol. It also is strain dependent. 

 

What was obviously left out in that piece of propaganda was the number of fatalities that if they had smoked cannabis had also drank. Seems like an omission to me. car and driver once did a test of how people drove and the people who smoked pot actually drove better. They drove slower and were aware of their impairment unlike alcohol. but the flat out worst were the drinking and smoking group. They basically felt that those folks should be prevented from driving until sober. 

 

Also what was the overall change in accidents involving fatalities?

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I do think you can be impaired by smoking excessive amounts of cannabis. but not in the manner that you would be with alcohol. I think if one is going to get thoroughly baked we should have someone else drive. On smaller amounts I think the affects are much much more moderate than alcohol. It also is strain dependent. 

 

What was obviously left out in that piece of propaganda was the number of fatalities that if they had smoked cannabis had also drank. Seems like an omission to me. car and driver once did a test of how people drove and the people who smoked pot actually drove better. They drove slower and were aware of their impairment unlike alcohol. but the flat out worst were the drinking and smoking group. They basically felt that those folks should be prevented from driving until sober. 

 

Also what was the overall change in accidents involving fatalities?

So did the dept of transportation, with the same conclusion.  So we also have gov't studies.

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this story has already been discredited. in the actual study they state that the testing didn't discern between metabolites and THC, didn't test for other drugs/alcohol, and should in no way be taken to mean these drivers were "impaired", only that they have used within 30-45 days

 

then Fox News got ahold of it............... and here we are

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Anti MMJ articles are interesting if only to provide insight into the minds of the authors, editors and publishers.

 

Where such research is allowed (UK and Israel come to mind) every study has shown marijuana does not adversely affect driving. Yes, the drivers are altered. But they also tend to compensate for the marijuana related perceptual changes by simply slowing down and driving with more caution.

 

The article does admit there is actually anecdotal evidence cannabis legalization will reduce the number of alcohol related accidents and result in an overall improvement in public safety.

 

There's a slogan for you, think of the children-smoke pot when you drive

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this story has already been discredited. in the actual study they state that the testing didn't discern between metabolites and THC, didn't test for other drugs/alcohol, and should in no way be taken to mean these drivers were "impaired", only that they have used within 30-45 days

 

then Fox News got ahold of it............... and here we are

 

WeStriveToMisinform.jpg

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I do think you can be impaired by smoking excessive amounts of cannabis. but not in the manner that you would be with alcohol. I think if one is going to get thoroughly baked we should have someone else drive. On smaller amounts I think the affects are much much more moderate than alcohol. It also is strain dependent. 

 

What was obviously left out in that piece of propaganda was the number of fatalities that if they had smoked cannabis had also drank. Seems like an omission to me. car and driver once did a test of how people drove and the people who smoked pot actually drove better. They drove slower and were aware of their impairment unlike alcohol. but the flat out worst were the drinking and smoking group. They basically felt that those folks should be prevented from driving until sober. 

 

Also what was the overall change in accidents involving fatalities?

The government obviously wants no part in reliable testing to find if and how cannabis impairs driving. It simply does not rise to the level of harm that alcohol or even lack of sleep or too much caffeine can cause. This report is bunk.

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study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology last month found that 12.2% of drivers killed by car crashes in six states tested positive for cannabinol, a marijuana metabolite, in 2010, up from 4.2% in 1999.


 


Here is how NBC News translated that finding in the headline over a story posted on Saturday: ”Pot Fuels Surge in Drugged Driving Deaths.” The article, which begins by describing the deaths of a


 


Colorado woman and her infant son in a crash caused by “a driver who admitted he smoked pot that day,” links the purported surge in marijuana-related traffic fatalities to laws allowing medical use of cannabis.


“As medical marijuana sales expanded into 20 states,” writes health reporter Bill Briggs, “legal weed was detected in the bodies of dead drivers three times more often during 2010 when compared to those who died behind the wheel in 1999.”


There are several problems with reading the trend described by this study as evidence that legalizing medical marijuana causes an increase in fatal car crashes:


  1. The fact that cannabinol was detected in a driver’s blood does not mean he was under the influence at the time of the crash, let alone that marijuana caused the crash. “It is possible for a driver to test positive for cannabinol in the blood up to 1 week after use,” the researchers note.
  2.  
  3. “Thus, the prevalence of nonalcohol drugs reported in this study should be interpreted as an indicator of drug use, not necessarily a measurement of drug impairment.”
  4. Only three of the six states included in the study (which were chosen because they routinely do drug testing on drivers killed in crashes) have medical marijuana laws: California, Hawaii,
  5. and Rhode Island.
  6. Traffic fatalities fell by more than 20% nationwide during the study period, even as “medical marijuana sales expanded.” Between enactment of its medical marijuana law in 1996 and 2010, 
  7. California saw a 31% drop in traffic fatalities. The number of traffic fatalities also fell in Hawaii and Rhode Island after they legalized medical marijuana—by 14% and 21%, respectively.
  8. study published last year by the Journal of Law & Economics found that adoption of medical marijuana laws is associated with a decline in traffic fatalities, possibly because people in
  9. those states are substituting marijuana for alcohol, which has a more dramatic impact on driving ability. Briggs mentions that study in the 17th paragraph of his article.

It is important to keep these points in mind as more states liberalize their marijuana laws, especially since “preventing drugged driving” is one of the “enforcement priorities” that the Justice


Department says might justify federal interference with legalization in Colorado and Washington. If “drugged driving” means operating a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of cannabinol


in your blood, “drugged driving” inevitably will rise after legalization as consumption rises. But having cannabinol in your blood is not the same as being intoxicated. And even if the share or


absolute number of traffic fatalities caused by marijuana-related impairment rises, the total number of fatal accidents could still drop thanks to substitution effects. Regardless of what happens


with traffic fatalities, the possibility of marijuana-related accidents is a reason for discouraging people from driving while impaired, not a reason for prohibiting the drug altogether.


 


http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobsullum/2014/02/17/if-medical-marijuana-laws-cause-a-surge-in-drugged-driving-deaths-why-are-fatalities-falling/

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