AAA worries stoned driving reaching new highs

Published: Feb. 3, 2020 at 2:19 PM EST
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Marijuana is now legal for either recreational or medical use in 33 states. A new study from AAA looked at 10 years of traffic deaths in Washington state. It found the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who were high on marijuana has more than doubled since pot was legalized there in 2012.

Chad Britton, 16, was walking to his car during lunch when he was hit and killed in front of his high school by a teen driver high on pot.

"He was a beautiful soul," dad Lonnie said. "He'd do anything for anyone."

Jake Nelson of AAA worries the rate of driving stoned is reaching a new high.

"If you're going to use marijuana, you shouldn't drive," Nelson said.

Washington State Police say run-ins with potentially high drivers are happening more often.

"Very common," Lt. Bruce Maier said. "We run into it every day."

Maier says drivers often mix pot with booze or other drugs.

"It affects your cognitive abilities, your decision-making," he said. "It slows down your reaction time."

Research from late 2018 shows crashes overall were up 6 percent in Washington, Nevada and Oregon compared to neighboring states where marijuana is banned. Recreational pot is now legal in 11 states and it's allowed for medical use in 22.

AAA says states need a two-tier system to determine who is too high to drive, testing for both recent use and evidence of impairment.

"Laws that limit how much THC can be in a person's blood as a driver are completely meaningless in terms of allowing us to predict how impaired somebody is behind the wheel," Nelson said.

NORML, a group that lobbies for legalizing pot, argues the AAA student has some major flaws. They say the increase in stops is due to more people testing for the presence of marijuana and that marijuana can stay detectable in the body for days after it's consumed.

AAA opposes the legalization of marijuana saying it's a danger to auto safety.