Colorado was one of the leading states in marijuana legalization when the recreational use of the substance was legalized in 2012. Now, years after the law came into effect in January 2014, many are wondering about the effects of marijuana use on car accidents. Opponents of legalization cited concerns about an increase in accidents due to marijuana-impaired drivers. To combat these fears, Colorado also passed laws regulating marijuana used while driving in a similar manner to alcohol.
Colorado Laws for Marijuana Use While Driving
Because marijuana can affect users similarly to alcohol, Colorado passed laws to address the issue of stoned drivers getting behind the wheel. Like alcohol, any amount of marijuana can impair a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle. It is recommended that users never consume marijuana and drive, but there are legal limits allowable in the bloodstream.
In Colorado, drivers may not have 5 nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or more in their whole blood sample.
Colorado is an implied consent state, which means that drivers who refuse a blood test will have their driver’s license suspended, even if they are not over the limit. Colorado’s open container laws also forbid the use of marijuana while driving and the possession of marijuana or paraphernalia in the passenger area of a car. Overall, marijuana is controlled similarly to alcohol when it comes to traffic laws.
How Can Marijuana Contribute to Car Accidents?
Marijuana, like alcohol, is a central nervous system depressant. It can cause drowsiness, slowed reaction times, and can inhibit judgment abilities. Temporary impairment can last up to four hours after ingesting the drug, which means that users may still be impaired as they get behind the wheel, hours later. As the number of users is growing, it is a concern that car accidents will increase.
Common car accidents that can occur when a driver has marijuana in their system include:
- Rear-end accidents: People who are under the influence of marijuana tend to react slowly to things, which can be dangerous if they’re behind the wheel. A reduced reaction time means a driver has less time to hit their brakes or steer out of the way to avoid hitting a slowed or stopped vehicle in front of them.
- Accidents caused by speeding: Because marijuana can inhibit a driver’s judgment the same way alcohol can, drivers may feel more confident or willing to take risks like driving above the speed limit. Speeding can also reduce a driver’s reaction time, and drivers are more likely to lose control of their cars when making turns or driving over slick surfaces.
- T-bone accidents: Most T-bone or side-impact accidents occur at intersections when vehicles are attempting left-hand turns. A person under the influence of marijuana may be slower to make their turn when vehicles are approaching from the opposite direction, or they may misjudge how fast the other vehicles are going.
From 2013 to 2016, there was a 40% increase in the number of drivers involved in fatal accidents. The number who tested positive for alcohol rose 17%, while marijuana users jumped 145%. This spike, from 47 drivers in 2013 to 115 in 2016, indicates that more accidents are involving marijuana. It is difficult to definitively say whether marijuana is causing an increase in accidents, though trends certainly seem to indicate that marijuana use is contributing to fatal car accidents.
Have You Been Injured in a Car Accident? Call Us.
Since the legalization of marijuana, many accidents have been caused by drivers who were under the influence. If you were injured by an impaired driver, you have the right to compensation. Our car accident attorneys can help you pursue the compensation you deserve. With more than 120 years of collective experience, Clawson & Clawson, LLP is well equipped to handle your case, no matter how complex.
Through our experience, we’ve been able to recover the following damages for victims of car accidents:
- Medical expenses, including costs of prescription medication, hospitalization, and surgery
- Lost wages and diminished earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage, including costs of car repairs
If your family has lost someone in a car accident, we can also file a wrongful death claim on your behalf to recover funeral and burial bills and other damages that can feel impossible to calculate, such as the loss of companionship.
Fill out our form online or call our attorneys today at (719) 602-5888 to speak with us directly. We can help you understand who should be held liable for your damages and can get to work on your claim.