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Is Cannabis to Blame for Increased Traffic Deaths in CO?

Ever since the recreational use of cannabis was legalized back in 2012, those who opposed the new law predicted that car accidents and traffic fatalities will become more prevalent on Colorado roads. From law enforcement and politicians to ordinary citizens, many have called for a zero tolerance policy to convict drivers if they even have a trace of marijuana in their system.

According to federal and state data, marijuana-positive motorists who were involved in fatal crashes in Colorado since 2013 have increased each year. An analysis of data and coroner reports by the Denver Post indicates nearly a dozen positive-testing drivers who passed away in collisions in Front Range counties had five times the amount of cannabis in their system allowed by law. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) stated that all motorists who survived and tested positive for pot last year admitted to using the substance within a few hours prior to testing.

However, positive test results do not determine if a driver was under the influence when these accidents occur. Traces of marijuana can remain in the body for days or weeks. Compared to alcohol testing, determining how much cannabis it takes to impair a driver remains unknown.

The CDOT says the presence of cannabinoids in your system doesn’t mean a person is impaired from cannabis. According to state law, an individual is considered impaired by pot if the THC blood concentration is five or more nanograms per milliliter. CDOT-reported incidents since 2014 were at or above the legal limit.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states while levels of alcohol in the blood correlates with driver performance, there isn’t much evidence to make the same connection with other substances. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there is no scientific support for a measurable threshold for cannabis use.

Compared to marijuana, alcohol’s effect on the ability to operate a vehicle is quite different. Those under the influence of alcohol experience much more severe symptoms compared to those who use cannabis. Additionally, frequent pot consumers may have developed a tolerance to the plant’s mind-altering effects, making them potentially capable of driving safely while under the influence.

At The Station, we recommend that you do not get behind the wheel after consuming cannabis. Even if you feel slightly buzzed, it is best to wait until you are completely sober before driving.

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