Zuba & Associates, P.C.

Marijuana DUIs increase among drivers

More people in Illinois and across the United States are driving under the influence of marijuana while fewer are driving drunk, according to the results of a national roadway study. As the number of drivers testing positive for alcohol decreased by 77 percent between 1973 and 2014, the number of drivers showing a marijuana-positive result rose by 50 percent between 2007 to 2014.

The results of the National Roadside Survey were shared at a Denver meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism in June 2017. While some have raised concerns that the change in marijuana use can be attributed to pot legalization campaigns, many of the results showing increased usage on the roads were obtained before legalization or in states where marijuana remains criminalized.

Marijuana and alcohol affect drivers differently. While driving under the influence of alcohol can lead to aggressive, reckless or overtly dangerous driving, marijuana is more likely to lead to slower reaction times in the case of unexpected events or roadway emergencies.

There was an overall increase in positive drug tests among drivers, and marijuana was the most frequently used drug found in those cases. The findings in the study came from two projects of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. One 20-month study in Virginia Beach looked at groups of drivers and the potential impact of their level of intoxication on their driving safety. The much larger National Roadside Studies took breath, blood and oral fluid samples from drivers at 60 sites across the United States over several decades.

People who are accused of driving while intoxicated, including driving under the influence of marijuana, could face severe consequences. These aren't limited to driver's license suspension; people charged with DUI offenses could face jail time, license revocation or serious fines carrying implications for employment and education in the future. A criminal defense lawyer can provide advice and representation to potentially challenge findings or police behavior and mount a meaningful defense.

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