With more states legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana sales, many in law enforcement look on the practice with increasing concern because of drivers who use pot before or during their driving.
Numerous studies over a period of many years reinforce concern about driving and marijuana use, as every state now penalizes those who drive “under the influence” of marijuana (DUI). And even though it’s easy to quickly test drivers who are intoxicated, no foolproof roadside test exists to detect those driving under the influence of pot. Now there could be a viable test on the horizon.
The effects of “being stoned” have been proven to negatively affect driving ability; and the safety of others who must share the road with them.
“Marijuana affects self-awareness,” according to Dr. Denise Valenti, of the National Institutes of Health’s Institute of Drugs and Addiction. She’s a member of the team which is developing that roadside test to detect drivers who are impaired by marijuana. “A driver cannot accurately self-assess so they do not judge their impairment properly,” says Dr. Valenti. “I compare this to the permanent dysfunctions with Alzheimer’s disease.”
What gets drivers “stoned” – rendering them a danger to drivers and pedestrians – is THC, the acronym for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
The only area in which THC may have some positive properties, according to medical researchers, is vision, where the chemical has been shown to enhance night vision and peripheral vision in tested subjects.
Alzheimer’s disease initially has negative effects on areas of the brain involved with memory. In more advanced stages, Alzheimer’s degrades areas in the cerebral cortex responsible for language, reasoning, sensations, social behavior and, to varying degrees, bodily movement and judgment – all of which are also affected by THC.
According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, drivers testing positive for marijuana – active THC intake within a four-hour period – are six times more likely to have killed someone other than themselves in an accident; this compared to alcohol positive alone. This was outlined in the agency’s 2015 report “Driver Toxicology Testing and the Involvement of Marijuana in Fatal Crashes, 2010-2014.”
New Test to Detect THC in Drivers Shows Promise
But how is that in-development roadside THC test for impaired drivers progressing? According to Valenti, her group is moving in the right direction.
“We are researching a simple goggle virtual reality system,” explains Valenti. The method is integrated to a cell phone and bluetooth response button. It measure’s retinal dysfunction, which research has shown is detectably affected by THC. “We are finding mid-peripheral vision impairments,” she continues. “This is essentially the ‘tunneling’ of vision which is often reported by marijuana users.”
She adds that the final version of this test will be a quick, simple, objective, and specific test of marijuana driving impairment tailored specifically for use by law enforcement. “This test will be threshold related and have a number value compared to a large normative database. The test will [reveal numeric results within] two minutes per eye,” Valenti concludes.
If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a marijuana-impaired driver, Kaplan Lawyers PC can help you protect your full and fair compensation rights. Call today or fill out the contact form for your free case evaluation. If we don’t win compensation, you pay nothing.