Study: Roadway Deaths Involving Cannabis Have More Than Doubled Since 2000

Close up of hand on car steering wheel holding a marijuana joint

Oregon Car Accident Attorneys Discuss the Problem

Authorities are discovering more and more that at least one person involved in a fatal car accident has cannabis in their system.

Nationwide, the number of fatal crashes involving cannabis more than doubled – going from 9 percent in 2000 to 21.5 percent in 2018, according to recent Boston Medical Center research.

Crashes where alcohol and cannabis were present also went up from 4.8 percent to 10.8 percent over the same time period.

Marijuana’s contributions to the crash rate may be undercutting the anti-drunk driving effort and making roadways more dangerous, researchers say.

Oregon’s crash rate is up as well

Oregon voted to legalize marijuana in 2014 and, for the most part, has maintained a higher fatal impaired car accident crash rate than the nation.

In 2019, about 0.5 people were killed in impaired driving crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in Oregon, according to federal estimates. The national rate was about 0.3 that same year. This rate includes crashes where at least one of the drivers was impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Some communities experience more impaired driving crashes than others. Among the Oregon cities and towns that have encountered multiple fatal car accidents over the past five years or so are:

  • Albany
  • Bend
  • Eugene
  • Grants Pass
  • Gresham
  • Medford
  • Portland
  • Salem
  • Springfield

Measuring marijuana impairment

Since California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, the U.S. has struggled to determine how marijuana affects driving abilities and then also develop a body fluid or breath test to quantify marijuana impairment. This lack of testing and agreed-upon standards has made it difficult to explicitly connect marijuana use to a higher risk for serious and fatal car accidents.

Still, we know that cannabis dulls many of the skills needed for driving, which almost certainly raises the risk of an accident. When people are high on weed, various research has shown that the following skills degrade:

  • Field of vision
  • Distance and time estimation
  • Hand/body steadiness and coordination
  • Traffic signal detection
  • Attention to detail
  • Information processing speed
  • Judging risk

Impaired-accident injuries

Car accidents caused by impaired drivers tend to be violent due to the extra risky driving behavior of high and drunk people. Some of the crash types most frequently associated with impaired driving are head-on collisions, which are often are fatal, and rear-end hits (tailgating, following too closely). Unsafe passing and distracted driving are also factors in impaired crashes.

Crashes caused by drivers under the influence of cannabis often cause severe and sometimes fatal injuries. The severity of the injuries is significantly increased by speeding. Among the most serious injuries related to impaired driving are:

  • Spinal Cord Injuries (SCIs)
  • Leg and knee tears or damage
  • Neck injuries, whiplash
  • Chest pain, cracked ribs, muscle pain, broken clavicle
  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), concussion, paralysis, nerve damage, decreased brain function

Don’t let an insurance company bully you into a lowball settlement

As marijuana becomes more common, it is important that Oregon crash victims fully understand their legal rights and options when they’ve been injured in an accident.

It is illegal to drive high in Oregon, but it is not necessary for crash victims to prove the at-fault driver was high at the time of the crash in order to obtain compensation for their losses.

The problem is at-fault drivers often deny responsibility, and insurance companies care more about protecting profits than paying you fair compensation for your losses. That’s why you need a car accident attorney to protect your rights and fight for the compensation you’re entitled to.

If you were injured in an accident that was not your fault or a loved one died in a fatal crash caused by someone else, you need to put yourself in the best possible position to recover the compensation you deserve.

Contact Zbinden & Curtis, Attorneys At Law to schedule a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer. At no cost, a member of our team will listen to the details of your case, explain how the law applies to you, and break down your legal options. We have offices in Portland and Woodburn and we proudly serve clients in Oregon and Washington.

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