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Fatal Car Crashes Involving Marijuana Double In Washington; Judging Impairment Remains Difficult

Gabriel Spitzer

In Washington state, fatal crashes involving drivers who’ve used marijuana have doubled since recreational pot was legalized in 2012. That’s according to a report from AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. But, the study also indicates it’s difficult to measure how much marijuana makes a driver impaired. Jennifer Cook, spokeswoman for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, says the study was conducted using accident data from Washington state.

“It’s quite alarming and is something that, as drivers, we should all be aware of and not get behind the wheel after consuming marijuana," Cook said.

The study, however, does not say marijuana caused the crashes or even that the drivers were impaired.

Cook says research shows there really is no way to know scientifically how much or how little marijuana is safe when driving.

It’s the reason the AAA Foundation is pushing Washington and other states to change how impairment is determined when it comes to marijuana.

"We should really be looking at system where we take a toxicology result and pair that with a behavioral analysis and use that to say if somebody was impaired or not,” Cook said.

For marijuana, Washington currently sets a THC limit in the blood similar to the blood-alcohol level allowed.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.
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