The results of a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggest that drugged driving is on the rise in Mississippi and around the country, but the data does not show a clear link to a rise in accidents and fatalities. The most recent NHTSA National Roadside Survey shows that state and federal efforts to curb drunk driving are working while attempts to deter drivers from using drugs are not.
Drunk driving rates plummet
According to NHTSA surveys, the number of drivers intoxicated by alcohol has fallen by 30% since 2007 and 80% since the early 1970s. However, the number of motorists with marijuana in their systems increased by 50% in just seven years. This figure could be even higher today as several states have legalized the recreational use of the drug since the last survey was taken in 2014.
The effect that marijuana use is having on road safety is less clear. While NHTSA researchers concluded that drivers with marijuana in their systems were 25% more likely to crash, they could not say with any confidence that the drug was the reason why. This is because most of the drivers who tested positive for marijuana after an accident were young men, which is the demographic group most at risk on the nation’s roads. NHTSA researchers reached their conclusions after studying information gathered from about 9,000 drivers.
DUI cases involving marijuana
Proving intoxication in DUI cases involving marijuana use can be difficult for prosecutors. There is no clear scientific link between THC levels in the blood and impairment, and the cannabinoid can be detected in blood tests up to a month after marijuana is consumed. When prosecutors base marijuana-related DUI charges on toxicology evidence alone, experienced criminal defense attorneys could argue that establishing proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not scientifically possible.