As government regulators rollout legalized medical marijuana in Illinois, a new study from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health reveals that fatal car crashes involving marijuana use tripled during the previous decade. The pot related accidents have helped fuel the overall increase in drugged-driving traffic deaths.
As acceptance of marijuana becomes the norm in Illinois, many experts fear a continuing upward spiral of marijuana related traffic injuries and deaths. "Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana," said co-author Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia. "If this trend continues, in five or six years non-alcohol drugs will overtake alcohol to become the most common substance involved in deaths related to impaired driving."
As Robert Wilde of Breitbart.com reports, the study draws its conclusions from statistics on more than 23,500 drivers who died within one hour of a crash between 1999 and 2010. The toxicology tests were performed on victims from six states including: California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and West Virginia. While alcohol related traffic fatalities remained steady at 40% throughout the decade, drug related deaths soared from 16% in 1999 to a whopping 28% in 2010.
Significantly, the study cites marijuana use as the leading culprit for the swelling number of drug related traffic deaths, contributing to 12 percent of 2010 crashes. This represents a 300% increase compared with four percent in 1999. The study qualifies the pot statistics by emphasizing that because marijuana stays in the blood for up to one week, therefore, researchers said, "the prevalence of nonalcohol drugs reported in this study should be interpreted as an indicator of drug use, not necessarily a measurement of drug impairment."
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