Maryland Drugged Driving Fatalities on the Rise

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The Governors Highway Safety Administration and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility recently issued a report, noting that in 2015, drugs were present in 43 percent of the fatally-injured drivers who had a test result, which was more frequent than alcohol. Additionally, the report noted that one-third of those tested positive for marijuana.

Maryland transportation and safety officials presented the report’s findings at the 2017 Strategic Highway Safety Plan Summit on April 26, 2017, which focused on drugged driving and driving safety. Several speakers noted their concerns about the growing danger of drugged driving as well as the increase in fatal crashes in Maryland.

According to the Maryland Department of Transportation, 523 people died on Maryland roads in 2016, a 14 percent increase since 2014. There are several reasons for the increase, including the improved economy, lower gasoline prices, not using the seat belt, more people driving, rising opioid abuse and a large uptick in medical and recreational marijuana usage.

Maryland law enforcement and traffic safety officials noted that nearly 10 percent of Maryland drivers still don’t wear seat belts, which contributed to about 60 of the fatal crashes in 2016.

Substance abuse specialists cautioned that using marijuana either recreationally or medically, impairs driving. A standard roadside test for marijuana impairment, similar to a Breathalyzer test for alcohol, does not exist yet.

Maryland is launching a medical marijuana program through the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission. The Commission develops policies, procedures, and regulations to implement programs that ensure medical cannabis (marijuana) is available to qualifying patients in a safe and effective manner.

This also worries transportation and safety officials, as patients who obtain and use medical marijuana could be driving while impaired.

The Commission anticipates that medical marijuana will be available to patients from a licensed dispensary late Summer 2017.

The April seminar was part of Maryland’s statewide effort to highlight the implementation of the five-year Strategic Highway Safety Plan, which brings together federal, state, and local entities to reduce Maryland’s roadway fatalities by 50 percent in the next twenty years.

The Plan established overall statewide fatality and serious injury targets and set goals and strategies within key areas including Impaired Driving Prevention.

It is my opinion that laws regarding the use of marijuana while driving should be enacted to catch up to the introduction and widespread use of medical marijuana in Maryland.

Attorney Kush Arora is an accomplished criminal defense lawyer who practices in the state of Maryland.  Attorney Arora has also been admitted to the bar in Washington D.C. and is certified to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States. This sponsored content is provided by Blue Shark Digital, with a focus on local and national issues. 

 



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2 COMMENTS

  1. According to the article roughly 14% of the drivers tested (does not say what percentage of drivers were tested) had marijuana in their system during fatal crashes. The article also points out that there is currently not a scientific test to determine active impairment from marijuana. So > 14% of driver fatalities in 2015 had marijuana in their system. The article also states that a much higher number of the fatalities had either alcohol and/or other drugs in their system, yet the image above the article only focuses on marijuana. Furthermore the title makes the assertion that “drugged driving fatalities are on the rise” but provides no evidence of that. It only states that fatalities are up 14% since 2014 but does not state weather there was increase in the drugs or alcohol statistics. The article also asserts that there has been a rise in medical and recreational marijuana usage, but gives no data to back this up and also gives no context. The article also suggests that there could be an uptick of impaired drivers when medical marijuana finally becomes available in Maryland, but provides no reasoning for that, when multiple studies have been done on just this subject in various states with medical marijuana programs. This article seems to merely cherry pick data points to support an already obtained conclusion rather than relying on actual data driven research.

  2. How many of those fatalities were just THC positive vs. having other drugs (opiates, amphetamines, etc) in their system as well in addition to marijuana?

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