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Marijuana-related fatalities on the rise in Colorado

Colorado has made marijuana legal over the course of the last several years, but with a rise in auto deaths with marijuana as a factor, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) wants to know more about what people think about driving while using the drug.

CDOT is surveying thousands in an attempt to understand public attitudes toward driving while influenced by marijuana. By launching the Cannabis Conversation, CDOT hopes to better identify what it can do to reduce the number of collisions and fatalities taking place by reducing the number of people driving while high on marijuana.

The total number of marijuana-related fatalities reached 77 in 2016, and 51 of the drivers involved had THC levels above the threshold that indicates impairment. A previous survey performed revealed that over half of all users decided to get behind the wheel in as few as two hours following their last use of marijuana. Many of those people may not have been intoxicated at that point, even if they did have Delta 9 THC in their bloodstreams; having the THC in their blood doesn't necessarily indicate impairment. This year, the results were not much different when it came to the time between using marijuana and driving.

It is important, though to note that marijuana is not as dangerous as some other behaviors. Marijuana-related crashes with fatalities are still much lower than those caused by drunk driving. Drunk driving leads to approximately 26 percent of fatalities while marijuana is a factor in only 8 percent. Despite that, CDOT wants to make sure it does all it can to keep people safe while on the roads. For now, those who are hurt in a crash related to the drug can still pursue a civil lawsuit against the driver responsible.

Source: The Denver Post, "As Colorado auto deaths involving marijuana rise, CDOT is asking thousands how they feel about driving under pot’s influence," John Aguilar, March 26, 2018

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