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Report shows marijuana growing problem in drugged driving accidents

According to a recent USA TODAY article, a total of 20 states have passed legislation allowing for the use of medical marijuana. Additionally, the use of marijuana for purely recreational purposes is now legal in two states. Many more states are likely to follow this trend and also pass legislation allowing residents over a certain age to legally purchase and use marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use.

Debate over the legalization of marijuana has raised many concerns including dangers associated with drugged driving. A recent report, compiled by researchers at Columbia University, shows that marijuana is becoming a growing public safety problem when individuals who smoke the drug choose to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

For the report, researchers reviewed fatal car accident reports for the years 1999 through 2010 from six states. Of the more than 23,500 drivers who died during this timeframe, researchers found a growing number were under the influence of marijuana at the time the fatal accident occurred. In fact, during 1999, marijuana was reported in the toxicology reports of roughly 16 percent of those drivers killed. By 2010, that number had increased to 28 percent.

The co-author of the report noted that "today one in nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana,". With additional states expected to pass similar laws sanctioning the use of at least medical marijuana, it's likely the drug will be attributed to causing even more fatal accidents.

Much like drunk driving, drugged driving is dangerous and preventable. The problem, highway safety proponents contend, is that driving under the influence of marijuana doesn't currently carry the same stigma or fines as driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Source: WTVG-13, "Fatal car crashes involving pot use have tripled in U.S.," Dennie Thompson, Feb. 4, 2014 USA TODAY, "Which states have legalized medical marijuana?," Jolie Lee, Jan. 6, 2014

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