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Are Stoned Drivers Safer than Drunk Drivers?

As more states legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes, law enforcement authorities are understandably concerned about people driving while under the influence of the drug. It's more difficult to determine whether a driver is impaired by marijuana than whether has a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. Thus, statistics regarding how many crashes are caused by stoned drivers can't really be measured against those involving drunk driving.

One 2013 study by an economist who has researched the link between marijuana legalization and car crashes actually found a drop in traffic fatalities, particularly those involving drunk driving, after states legalized medical marijuana. While a number of factors could be responsible for this, the economist hypothesized that people may be substituting marijuana for alcohol.

That brings us to the question of whether drivers under the influence of marijuana are safer than those under the influence of alcohol. While obviously, no one should be driving after using either, it's important to look at how marijuana impacts people's cognitive abilities differently than alcohol does.

Marijuana impacts motor coordination, tracking, attention and vision -- all necessary for safe driving. However, studies have shown that people who have ingested a small amount of marijuana are more likely to compensate for their impairment than those who have been drinking.

They may actually become more risk averse, driving slower and staying farther behind other vehicles than they normally would. That's in contrast to those under the influence of alcohol, who tend to drive faster, allow less room between vehicles and make "rash, last minute decisions," according to the economist.

Of course, with increasingly powerful strains of marijuana on the market and its accessibility in edible items and other forms besides joints, it can be difficult for even experienced marijuana users to determine how they will be affected and when those effects will set in until they're already behind the wheel.

Whenever someone is injured in a car accident as the result of another driver's actions, it's important to get as many facts as possible if you file a civil claim to seek compensation for medical treatment and other expenses. If it's determined that a person was under the influence of any drugs, legal or illegal, at the time of a crash, your chances of obtaining a judgment or settlement may be improved. An experienced Nevada attorney can provide valuable advice and guidance.

Source: Huffington Post, "The Disturbing Truth About Driving While Stoned," Tia Ghose, accessed May 23, 2016

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