Marijuana Use Before Driving And The Potential For Accidents

Illinois Legalized Recreational Marijuana

In Illinois, legalized recreational marijuana began in January 2020. Many issues were presented by this new development.

Among the issues are what impact this might have with regard to traffic safety. For instance, some are wondering if the legalization of marijuana will lead to more people “driving while high.” As well, questions arise as to what impact the use of cannabis has on a driver’s ability to safely drive a vehicle. Due to the nature of marijuana and how the body processes it, it is possible for a driver to have marijuana in his system perhaps long after it has been used.

Lastly, much seems to be unknown as to the effect marijuana use has, depending upon how it is used or consumed. For instance, is there a difference in impairment depending upon whether the cannabis is smoked, vaped, or eaten?

Impact Of Cannabis Usage On Driving Ability

The effect that drug usage has on drivers is complex. Many factors determine the type, length, and severity of impairment. Furthermore, how and whether the resulting impairment causes a driver to make mistakes can be hard to predict.

Cannabis is one of many drugs that is commonly used by drug-impaired drivers. The subject of cannabis usage and impairment 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 NHTSA report of July 2017 titled “Marijuana-Impaired Driving.” 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 definitively tested and proven as the cause of a driver’s impairment.

The Increasing Danger Of “Drugged Driving”

“Drugged driving” incidents have been increasing in the last few years in Lake County as well as throughout the greater Chicago area.

As seen in many accidents, a hazardous situation can develop when a driver is impaired on drugs. This impairment can be increased if alcohol was consumed while the drug usage was occurring. As well, other factors can increase the level of impairment, such as mixed drug use.

In addition to the traditional method of taking drugs, other newer methods such as vaping have been seen as a method to take drugs.

Various aspects of “drugged driving” (i.e. driving while impaired on drugs) is further discussed on the “Car Accidents Involving Drivers Under The Influence Of Drugs” page. Additionally, Illinois DUI criteria for marijuana use and other drug use is explained in the “Illinois 2020 DUI Fact Book.”

The Frequency Of Driving After Using Marijuana

One recent study indicates the frequency of driving after using marijuana. The study also indicates the increased likelihood that the driver will crash. An excerpt from the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety news release of June 19, 2019, titled “Americans Don’t Think They’ll Get Arrested For Driving High“:

Nearly 70% of Americans think it’s unlikely a driver will get caught by police for driving while high on marijuana, according to a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey. An alarming finding shows that an estimated 14.8 million drivers report getting behind the wheel within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days. The impairing effects of marijuana are usually experienced within the first one to four hours after using the drug.1 And marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash.2

What To Do If Injured In An Accident

As seen in many Chicagoland accidents caused by “drugged drivers,” injuries in these accidents tend to be serious in nature. Many of these injuries are life-threatening in nature, and some lead to one or more fatalities. Depending upon the level of impairment, the driver’s judgment can be substantially in error. If this is the case, a violent vehicle collision can occur which likely will cause serious injuries to all vehicle occupants.

If you are injured in a vehicle accident, there are many actions that should be taken immediately. These actions help to safeguard one’s health as well as to preserve the ability to get maximum injury compensation if the accident was the fault of another person or party.

Getting a thorough medical exam is highly advisable. There are many reasons why this exam is beneficial. From an overall health perspective, such an exam should determine all injuries, even those that are not currently evident to the hurt person. Once these injuries have been identified, a proper course of medical treatment can be determined and administered.

It should be noted that certain injuries that are not promptly identified and treated can result in a serious health threat. Among the injuries that, if untreated, can create a life-threatening condition are serious brain injuries.

Having a documented medical exam performed is also legally beneficial.

Getting Compensation For Accident Injuries

There are other steps that should be taken from a legal perspective. These steps preserve the ability to get the maximum amount of compensation for one’s injuries.

People who have suffered accident injuries will likely have a (great) need for injury compensation. Medical bills can be (very) high, depending upon the type and severity of injuries. Due to various factors, these bills can be high even if one has good insurance.

As well, other financial challenges can occur. For instance, there may be an inability to work during the injury recovery period. After being seriously injured, this injury recovery period can be weeks or months. If injuries have caused one or more permanent impairments, there may be an inability for the person to be able to return to the same job.

Given the overall injury situation – medical issues, medical costs, other financial issues, and other hardships such as pain and suffering – there can be many types of injury compensation potentially available. This compensation can be sought via a personal injury lawsuit. 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

For fatal accidents that were somebody else’s fault, relevant parties can choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Elman Law Group, an Illinois personal injury law firm, 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, the Elman Law Group provides a free legal consultation. 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.  In addition to being provided free of charge, this discussion is confidential in nature.

Elman Law Group, LLC has been handling Illinois personal injury cases for 25+ years, over which time it has handled over 10,000 personal injury cases.  Through this extensive experience, the Elman Law Group has become known 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.