Detecting Drugged Driving in West Virginia
Medical marijuana will become legal in West Virginia, come July 2019. Today, across the nation, recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and pot for medical use is legal in 29 states. And more states are likely to soon join these ranks as public support to legalize and decriminalize marijuana grows steadily.
Even though use of marijuana for medical purposes in West Virginia will be initially limited to pills, ointments, oils, and means of delivery other than smoking, it is good to know that researchers are developing means of determining whether or not a driver is impaired to the point of becoming unsafe to be on our W.Va. state and county roads.
Drugged Driving Accidents
Even though it is illegal, we know that in our state, especially in university cities like Morgantown, recreational pot use, often combined with alcohol, is a factor in someautomobile collisionscausing injuries requiring a lawyer.
States such as Colorado and Washington, which were at the forefront of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, have since experienced an increase in car accidents involving marijuana impaired and drugged drivers.
In this new environment of legalizing medical and recreational marijuana use, law enforcement agencies statewide are dealing with the challenges of how marijuana impairment is to be determined.
While Breathalyzers are available and commonly used to establish alcohol-related impairment as well as the levels of blood alcohol concentration or BAC and there are laws in all states setting the legal BAC limit at 0.08 percent, there were no such measures or measuring devices for marijuana-related impairment.
That is – until recently – when the marijuana breathalyzer was introduced. This is an instrument that is being developed by Hound Labs, an Oakland-based company. This breathalyzer will measure how much Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – which is present in marijuana and contributes to intoxication – is present in a person’s breath. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.
How Does the Marijuana Breathalyzer Work?
The main challenge for law enforcement is to tell if a person or driver is under the influence of marijuana at the time. A blood test does not provide an accurate measurement as THC can remain in your system for days and sometimes up to a month. Hound Labs claims that its instrument overcomes this issue and will help determine the level of impairment.
The device works under the premise that if THC appears in an individual’s breath, then he or she has smoked marijuana within the past couple of hours and are more than likely impaired. This Hound Labs product may be the solution to the problem authorities currently face.
Law enforcement agents have a tough time catching drugged drivers as many impaired motorists are both drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking pot. Also, there is no legal limit for THC as there is a BAC limit for alcohol. The breathalyzer, which the company says will be ready to go on the market later this year, will be priced between $500 and $1,000.
Pot Use Raises Crash Risks, Injuries, and Deaths, Especially When Combined with Alcohol
The upcoming legalization of medical marijuana is raising concerns for many in West Virginia with recent numbers showing that the Mountain State has the most number of fatal accidents involving drug-impaired driving.
According to alcoholic.org, which looked at more than two decades worth of federal crash data, West Virginia has the deadliest drugged drivers with 2.33 fatal car accidents related to drugs for every 100,000 residents.
West Virginia also ranks sixth in the top 10 states for fatal DUI accidents. What’s worse, one in every four deadly drug-related accident involved marijuana.
It is also well established that marijuana affects motorists’ judgment, skills, coordination and reaction time. Studies have consistently determined that there is a definite link between THC levels in the blood and impaired driving.
Two large European studies found that drivers with THC in their system were twice as likely to be at fault for a deadly crash compared with motorists who were not impaired by drugs or alcohol. Those involved in car accidents with high levels of THC in their blood are three to seven times more likely be responsible for car accidents.
Protect Your Rights After a DUI Collision Causes Injuries
If you have been injured in a West Virginia car accident caused by a drugged and/or drunk driver, you are probably struggling physically, emotionally and financially. Please remember that you do have legal rights.
You may be able to seek compensation for damages including medical costs, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
Drunk or drugged drivers who cause major injury or fatal collisions are prosecuted in criminal court.
However, they may also be held financially responsible for the damages they cause with a civil personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Our experienced West Virginia car accident lawyers can help fight for your rights and assist you with securing maximum compensation for your losses.
Jeffery Robinette was admitted to practice law in 1991 and is licensed in all levels of state and federal trial courts in West Virginia. Mr. Robinette is also licensed in all state and federal appeals courts in West Virginia and the United States Supreme Court. As a National Board Certified Trial Attorney who has handled hundreds of motor vehicle, injury, and construction defect claims and a leading author on insurance claims settlement issues and difficulties in West Virginia, Jeff Robinette is uniquely qualified to represent your best interest.