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Study evaluates marijuana’s effects on drivers

Research shows that marijuana can impair drivers, and the number of drugged drivers appears to be rising.

Under Georgia law, drivers are prohibited from getting behind the wheel if they have any amount of marijuana in their system. This is regardless of whether or not there is any alcohol in the person's system.

A recent study sought to evaluate how marijuana affects someone's ability to remain safe on the road. The findings point to why it is so important to have laws in place prohibiting the behavior.

The research

Researchers from the University of Iowa selected 18 people between the ages of 21 and 37 to undergo the study. Some were given alcohol, some cannabis, and some both. They were then placed in a simulator to determine if they would leave the road, weave and how fast they would weave.

The findings indicated that drivers with only cannabis had trouble staying in their lane. Those that had 13.1 ug/L of THC - the active ingredient in marijuana - in their systems demonstrated impairment that would be consistent with the drunk driving of someone with a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration, which is the legal limit in Georgia. What's more, people who used both alcohol and marijuana were found to weave more than those who used either substance independently.

Additional support

The National Institute on Drug Abuse points to several other studies on the same topic. In both, which were conducted in Europe, researchers compared people with THC in their systems against those who were sober. The outcome? People who had traces of THC were at approximately double the risk of causing a fatal car accident. The NIDA also states that people who have THC levels present are as much as seven times more likely to cause a crash than their sober counterparts.

A challenge

Georgia has a strict zero-tolerance policy in place for people who are accused of drugged driving. Despite that, marijuana use among drivers appears to be increasing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year released its National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use, which found the following:

  • In 2007, 8.6 percent of drivers had marijuana in their system; in 2013-14, 12.6 percent did.
  • The number of drivers who tested positive for at least one drug rose 16.3 percent from 2007 to 2013-14.
  • The number of drivers who had at least one illegal drug in their system rose 3 percent in that timeframe.

These numbers illustrate a sobering look at how many people may be on the road while impaired. In worst-case scenarios, this can lead to a deadly accident.

Anyone who has questions about this issue should speak with a personal injury attorney in Georgia.

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