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New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has indicated he wants state lawmakers to pass legislation legalizing recreational marijuana use by the end of the year. He believes legalizing marijuana can potentially bring $60 million in tax revenue to New Jersey, while decreasing incarceration rates for non-violent offenders.
Some New Jersey residents are more skeptical about how legal marijuana will impact the state, especially when it comes to driving. Experts are only beginning to understand how marijuana use impacts driving, specifically if it increases the risk of drugged driving accidents.
Existing research on marijuana-related motor vehicle accidents produces mixed results. One study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety compared the number of auto insurance claims in states that recently legalized marijuana with neighboring states where the drug is still illegal. They found a three percent increase in accident claims in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado compared with nearby states.
Yet a similar study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that Colorado and Washington State had no noticeable increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths in the three years since the drug has been legal. The problem may lie in the fact that there is currently no reliable way to tell if a driver is under the influence of marijuana during a traffic stop or after an accident. Current detection methods can only detect if a person has consumed the drug within the previous days or month leading up to a crash.
While it is not completely clear how legalizing marijuana affects accident rates, researchers do know the drug impacts certain behaviors that are essential to safe driving. Much like alcohol interferes with proper brain function, the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, alters the part of the brain that controls balance, coordination, judgment, and memory.
Marijuana has been shown to slow reaction time and hinder decision-making – both of which can significantly compromise a person’s ability to drive safely. Researchers also found that when alcohol use is combined with marijuana, the cognitive impact is even greater.
Laws regarding legal marijuana use and driving vary from state to state. However, considering the scientific research on how the drug changes a user’s ability to stay alert, make decisions, and react to hazards, it seems the only safe way to drive is drug free.
Alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs alter a driver’s clarity and response time behind the wheel. That may lead to more serious and fatal car accidents if marijuana becomes legal in the state of New Jersey. Because it is difficult to prove marijuana use contributed to a car accident, it is important for injured accident victims to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for help gathering critical evidence that shows the other driver was negligent.
At Folkman Law Offices, P.C., our South Jersey car accident lawyers work diligently to prove your injuries, pain, and suffering are the direct result of another person’s negligence. We fight for the compensation you need to pay for medical expenses and lost income when injuries leave you unable to work. Call 856-354-9444 or contact us online to schedule a free case review today. Our seasoned personal injury attorneys proudly serve clients throughout Burlington County, Camden County, and the greater Philadelphia region from our offices in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Center City Philadelphia, and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.