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Study shows an increase in marijuana-influenced driving

Within seven years, the number of pot-influenced drivers throughout Washington and the rest of the U.S. rose by 50 percent. This is based on information from the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol & Drug Use by Drivers. The survey also found that from 1973 to 2014, the number of drivers who tested positive for alcohol decreased by 77 percent.

An AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research scientist states that marijuana and alcohol affect drivers differently. For example, drunk individuals may drive through a red light. Individuals who have consumed marijuana may have difficulty being aware of and reacting to sudden events.

The surge in marijuana-positive drivers is an issue for concern. An examination of data related to blood and oral fluid samples shows that 22 percent of people who drive during the day and 23 percent of nighttime drivers tested positive for drugs in the period from 2013 to 2014. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, was the drug most frequently detected. Nearly 9 percent of people who drove during the day and 13 percent of those who drove at night tested positive for THC.

Two projects sponsored and managed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were the source of the findings. They included the National Roadside Studies, which began in the 1970s and have been implemented nearly every 10 years since. The other project was the Crash Risk Study, which was conducted in Virginia Beach over a period of 20 months until 2012.

Individuals who have been arrested for being impaired while driving may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer could assist individuals accused of drunk driving by determining if their civil rights were violated during roadside alcohol tests or arrests. A reduction or dismissal of charges may be sought.

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