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Rise in drugged driving in Washington may increase car accident risk

Driving while high is illegal and can impair drivers' decision-making skills

The legalization of marijuana in Washington for recreational use has led to an increase in the number of marijuana-related DUI charges in Eastern Washington, according to KXLY News. While studies are divided over the risks posed by drivers under the influence of marijuana, driving while high is illegal in Washington and can lead to a DUI charge. Additionally, some studies have shown that marijuana use can lead to an increased risk for fatal car accidents.

Increase in DUI charges

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana in Washington climbed by 25 percent in 2013, just after recreational marijuana use was legalized.

While marijuana has been legalized in the state, driving while high is treated similarly to driving while under the influence of alcohol. The legal threshold in Washington is a blood-content level of five parts per billion of THC.

Impaired driving

Authorities are still trying to determine how dangerous marijuana use is when driving. Studies have already shown that marijuana use leads to slower decision-making skills, loss of peripheral vision, and a difficult time multitasking. All of those effects would suggest that marijuana use on the road could be extremely dangerous. While other studies have shown that marijuana users, unlike drunk drivers, typically try to compensate for their impairment by driving slower or more cautiously, the fact that they are not able to react quickly could lead to tragic consequences while driving.

Additionally, that excess of caution appears to be cancelled out when a high driver has also been drinking alcohol. Furthermore, one study by Columbia University found that drivers under the influence of marijuana were 80 percent likelier to be involved in a fatal accident. While that study's results have been disputed by some, it nonetheless highlights that marijuana use while driving may pose serious risks to other drivers on the road.

Injured by a DUI driver

Because driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal, anybody who has been injured by an impaired driver may be able to hold that impaired driver accountable for his or her negligence. Regardless of whether the other driver was high or drunk during an accident, victims of such drivers should talk to a personal injury attorney to discuss what legal options may be available. An experienced attorney can help gather evidence, including police reports, witness testimony, and blood tests, to help establish a case showing that the other driver was under the influence and recklessly endangered the safety of other drivers on the road.