As New Jersey legislation moves closer to legalizing marijuana, critics are voicing concerns over the risks involved with stoned driving. According to a recent article published on the USA Today network online publication, app., the attitudes of many in favor of legalized marijuana are just as scary as the actual dangers associated with driving under the influence of marijuana. In fact, most of the readers responding to the article believe that stoned driving may increase their focus behind the wheel.
How to Detect Stoned Driving
Currently, there is no definitive test to measure the amount of marijuana in a person’s system. Tests exist that confirm the presence of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the bloodstream or urine of a person, but a test to determine what level of THC results in impairment is yet to be seen. This leaves law enforcement with the dilemma of arresting people who are driving in an intoxicated state. Without a baseline test that determines their level of impairment, there are no grounds for arrest, and any action taken by law enforcement is subject to criticism.
The detrimental effects of legalization of marijuana are still emerging, however statistics out of Colorado are leading many to believe we are facing a serious problem. Since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado in 2014, there has been a 48 percent jump in traffic fatalities associated with those driving under the influence. That information is hard to argue with, though many proponents for legalization blame the media on inflating the numbers as a scare tactic.
Drunk Driving vs Stoned Driving
A spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) drew a comparison between the mindset about drunk driving in the 1980s, with the mindset about stoned driving in the new millennium. Education and awareness campaigns on the dangers of driving drunk and strict laws and enforcement on drunk driving have been very successful. The number of drunk driving fatalities has dropped steadily over the past 20 years. Police can rely on blood alcohol readings that measure a driver’s level of impairment, resulting in convictions, loss of license, and imprisonment for repeat offenders.
As legalization of marijuana nears passing in New Jersey and other states across the country, education and awareness campaigns on the dangers of stoned driving are needed now. Without laws and penalties in place against stoned driving, many fear a catastrophic increase in traffic fatalities related to those driving under the influence. Safety advocacy groups such as MADD and the National Safety Council are hopeful that their education and awareness initiatives will change relaxed attitudes about stoned driving before the legalization of marijuana occurs. In the meantime, parents and schools are urged to help upcoming drivers realize that stoned driving is as harmful as drunk or distracted driving.
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