Study shows marijuana-positive drivers increased in 2014

November 10, 2015

By Staff

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Newly released data from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission shows that marijuana is increasing as a factor in deadly crashes.

The number of drivers involved in deadly crashes who tested positive for marijuana increased 48 percent from 2013 to 2014.

From 2010-2014, nearly 60 percent of drivers involved in fatal collisions were tested for drugs. Among those tested drivers, about 20 percent (349 drivers) were positive for marijuana.

However, just testing positive for marijuana doesn’t necessarily indicate whether a driver was actually affected by the drug at the time of the crash since marijuana can be detected in a person’s blood for days (possibly weeks) after a person uses the drug. This new data is able to distinguish between drivers who test positive for THC, the impairing substance in marijuana and those who have residual marijuana in their system from prior use that may have occurred days ago.

The number of drivers testing positive for active THC has steadily increased, from less than half of marijuana-positive drivers in 2010 up to almost 65 percent of drivers in 2013. In 2014, an alarming 85 percent (75 of 89 drivers) of drivers testing positive for marijuana were positive for impairing THC.

Half of those THC-positive drivers were also under the influence of alcohol, the majority of those also exceeded the alcohol limit of .08 percent BAC.

The largest increase in THC-positive drivers were among males ages 21-25, from only six in 2013 up to 19 in 2014 — the most significant increase among any age group.

A new law prohibits drivers and passengers from using marijuana while driving. It also prohibits anyone from keeping marijuana in the vehicle unless it is in its original sealed packaging or is stored in the trunk or some other area of the car not normally occupied by people.

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