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How cannabis and alcohol impacts driving

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Traffic accidents are continuously rising as things begin to return to normal after the COVID-19 restrictions on movement. However, a trend is noticeable when looking at the causative factor behind most of these accidents. Many drivers involved in accidents leading to severe injuries and even death were driving under the influence of cannabis or alcohol.

“While it is okay to consume alcohol or marijuana, it becomes a problem when the individual gets behind the wheel. An impaired driver is not only a risk to themselves but also other road users,” says injury attorney William Umansky.

What constitutes impaired driving

An individual is considered impaired when they operate a vehicle while under the influence of cannabis or alcohol. Before ruling off one as guilty of impaired driving, you will need to check the alcohol content of their blood. This test is known as the blood alcohol content (BAC) test.

If the person’s blood contains a minimum of 0.08 percent or more alcohol during the test, they are considered impaired. The legal consequences for driving under the influence are strict in many states in the United States. The reason is not far-fetched.

From observations, drivers who operate their vehicles while under the influence of cannabis have contributed to the loss of lives. Therefore, stricter punishment serves as a deterrent to others who may want to hit the roads while under the influence.

Alcohol and cannabis accident statistics

Over the years, whenever impaired driving is mentioned, what readily comes to mind is alcohol. Many of the accident cases recorded involved drunk drivers who lost control of the wheels. The rate of accidents resulting from the intake of cannabis was minimal years ago, which was understandable considering the substance was not legal.

However, as many states sign legislation that legalizes the sale and use of cannabis by private individuals, the rate of accidents that are linked to the consumption of marijuana has increased considerably. According to a study carried out by the Boston Medical Center, the number of car crashes involving cannabis has doubled within the past 20 years.

While substantial efforts have been made in reducing the rate of accidents from alcohol impairment, the progress seems insignificant because of cannabis impairment. According to the Boston Medical Center research, between the years 2000 and 2018, the death rate from cannabis-impaired crashes increased rapidly from 9 percent to 21.5 percent. The study also concluded that the fatality rate of accidents doubles when the driver is under the influence of cannabis.

How cannabis and alcohol affect driving performance

Alcohol and cannabis can adversely affect individuals while driving, making them a threat to other road users. Some of the effects include:

  • It can make people high: many people try marijuana and alcohol to get high. The ingestion of these substances triggers the release of dopamine or the “feel-good” hormone. People in this state are not in the best position to make good decisions. Driving requires a high level of concentration and critical decision-making. Cannabis and alcohol lower the driver’s ability to make the right decisions.
  • Alcohol and cannabis can tip the driver’s mental state: they can leave the individual feeling anxious, paranoid, and afraid. In very high doses, the driver can start hallucinating, which increases the risk of a car crash.
  • It may heighten the driver’s senses: heightened senses make objects appear closer or farther than they are. Drivers under the influence of cannabis and alcohol may find it challenging to maintain a safe following distance—their inability to maintain a safe distance following increases the risk of collision.

Signs that a driver is impaired

It is possible to spot a driver under the influence without conducting an alcohol or substance check by looking for the telltale signs. Knowing how to identify a driver under the influence on time can help prevent death and possible injuries from a crash.

What signs will help identify one as driving under the influence?

#1. Continuous swerving

Constant weaving and swerving on the road are characteristics common in drivers under the influence. These drivers find it difficult to concentrate and exercise control over the vehicle’s movements. If you notice that the driver is having a challenge keeping the vehicle on a straight path, it may be your cue to maintain a safe driving distance or signal a law enforcement personnel.

#2. Tailgating

Tailgating is when the distance of a vehicle directly behind is so close that it increases the risk of collision. The driving rule of safe following distance mandates drivers to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle directly behind. The safe following distance a driver must observe depends on the speed level and the type of vehicle involved.

#3. Ignoring traffic signs

Cannabis and alcohol lower the driver’s motor skills and visual capacity. It is therefore very easy to miss traffic signals. An impaired driver will ignore traffic regulations, drive above the recommended speed limit, ignore traffic light signals, and make illegal bypasses.

#4. Misuse of car equipment

The function of many car equipment, such as the horn and the trafficator, is to communicate with other road users. An impaired driver may misuse this equipment, thereby giving out the wrong signal and endangering the lives of others.

Bottom line

Driving after consuming cannabis or alcohol poses a great danger to the lives of road users and not the driver alone. Recovering from accident trauma and facing the legal concerns accompanying it can be overwhelming. If you suffer injuries from impaired driving, having a competent attorney sort out the legal processes of getting compensation while focusing on making a total recovery is the right way to go.


augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press

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