Marijuana Use As A Cause Of Drug-Impaired Driving

Illinois Legalized Recreational Marijuana

Beginning on January 1, 2020, recreational marijuana will become legal in Illinois. Various aspects of this new law are discussed on the Illinois Policy Institute’s page titled “Illinois becomes 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana.” An excerpt regarding driving under the influence of drugs:

Illinois already has a law on the books that makes drivers with THC blood concentration of five nanograms or more per milliliter guilty of driving under the influence, regardless of whether the driver is impaired. The new law creates a DUI Task Force led by Illinois State Police to examine best practices for roadside testing.

As far as traffic safety is concerned, this legalization of recreational marijuana raises questions, such as will the amount of “drugged driving” (i.e. drug-impaired driving) increase? What impacts does marijuana use have on subsequent driving ability? And, is there a difference in the impairment caused by marijuana use if the cannabis is smoked, vaped, or consumed as an edible?

“Drugged Driving” Has Been Increasing

“Drugged driving” incidents, and associated accidents, have been increasing over the last few years. This increase has occurred throughout the Chicago area, including in Lake County. On this site, various Lake County accidents that have involved a drug-impaired driver can be seen in posts found under the “DUI” category.

Various aspects of drug-impaired driving is seen on the “Car Accidents Involving Drivers Under The Influence Of Drugs” page. As discussed on that page, many statistics indicate that the incidence of drug-impaired driving has been increasing. Also, as seen in the statistics, many serious accidents involve a driver who has been taking drugs previous to driving.

There are many factors that determine how impacted a driver’s ability will be reduced due to drug use. Among the predominant factors are the amount of drugs used; the type of drugs used; a person’s tolerance to drugs; and how long the drugs were used previous to the driver getting behind the wheel. Another major determinant is if while taking drugs, alcohol is consumed and/or if there is “mixed drug use” – i.e. two or more drugs are taken together. Often, the effect of drug consumption on the ability to drive safely can be difficult to predict.

Many types of illicit drugs have been used by “drugged drivers.” Among the most common are marijuana, heroin, meth, and cocaine. However, other drugs, including hallucinogens, have also been used. Some of the most serious fatal accidents in Lake County have occurred after drivers have “vaped” drugs or “huffed” chemicals.

Impact Of Cannabis Use On Driving

The effect of drug usage, including marijuana use, on driving impairment can be complex. The subject is discussed on the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) page titled “Does marijuana use affect driving?”

An excerpt:

Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.7–9 

Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in vehicle crashes, including fatal ones.10 Two large European studies found that drivers with THC in their blood were roughly twice as likely to be culpable for a fatal crash than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol.11,12 However, the role played by marijuana in crashes is often unclear because it can be detected in body fluids for days or even weeks after intoxication and because people frequently combine it with alcohol. Those involved in vehicle crashes with THC in their blood, particularly higher levels, are three to seven times more likely to be responsible for the incident than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol. The risk associated with marijuana in combination with alcohol appears to be greater than that for either drug by itself.8

Additional commentary concerning marijuana use and its effect on driving is seen in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report titled “Marijuana-Impaired Driving.” [July 2017] One of the main topics discussed is how to determine whether a driver has been impaired by marijuana usage, and how this cannabis usage may be tested and definitively proven as the cause of a driver’s impairment.

What To Do If Injured In An Accident

As mentioned above, “drugged drivers” often cause accidents with serious injuries. Due to the driver impairment, the driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle can be dramatically reduced. If this is the case, the probability of a serious collision increases. As seen in many Chicago-area drug-impaired motorist accidents, serious injuries can occur to all vehicle occupants involved. It is common for serious accidents to result in one or more fatalities.

As with any motor vehicle accident injury, an injured person should take immediate actions following an accident. There are various recommended steps to protect one’s health. There are many benefits of having a thorough medical exam as soon as possible. Also, having a promptly performed, thorough, documented medical exam is also highly beneficial from a legal perspective. A delay in having this medical exam performed can make it more difficult to prove that the accident was the cause of the person’s injuries.

There are also many other steps that should be taken from a legal perspective in order to preserve the ability to get the maximum amount of injury compensation. These steps are discussed on the “Steps To Take After An Auto Accident” page.

A qualified personal injury attorney should be able to indicate the potential amount of injury compensation that could result from a lawsuit. The amount of accident injury compensation varies depending upon many factors, based largely upon the specific characteristics of the accident and the associated injuries. The type of the injuries, including the permanence of accident injuries and any resulting impairments, is a primary factor. Impairments can include both those of physical or cognitive types.

Typically, those who have been injured during a vehicle accident will have a great need for injury compensation. Depending upon the type and severity of injuries – and other factors such as insurance – medical bills can be (very) high. As well, the injuries can cause other financial challenges, such as an inability to work during the recovery period. If injuries have caused permanent impairments, there may be an inability for the injured person to perform the same job.

Compensation sought through injury lawsuits can potentially include many different types. Compensation types can include (but are not limited to) those for:

  • Medical bills (past, current and future)
  • Rehabilitation, including physical and occupational rehabilitation
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of function
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of consortium
  • Other economic damages

The Elman Law Group, an Illinois personal injury law firm, represents those injured in accidents that were the fault of another person or party. The Elman Law Group can provide an overview as to what types of compensation – as well as what amounts – may be reasonably expected given the characteristics of the accident and the associated injuries.

If you were injured in an accident, call Tony Elman, Lead Trial Attorney at the Elman Law Group, at (773) 392-8182 to discuss the accident and see what legal actions – including the filing of a lawsuit – may be appropriate.  This discussion is provided free of charge and is confidential in nature.

Elman Law Group, LLC has been handling Illinois personal injury cases for 25+ years, and during this time has handled over 10,000 personal injury cases.  During this extensive experience, the Elman Law Group has built a reputation for its court trial performance.  As seen in many of its cases, this successful trial experience may (substantially) increase potential accident injury compensation.

Elman Law Group, LLC handles cases on a “contingency” basis…clients are not charged legal fees unless and until they get money.