Posted in Accident Data on April 14, 2023
In November 2020, Montana voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana. Since then, the state has been grappling with the implications of this decision, including its impact on motor vehicle safety.
Marijuana is known to impair cognitive and motor skills, which can increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents. In this blog post, we’ll explore how Montana’s legalization of marijuana has impacted motor vehicle safety and what steps the state is taking to address these concerns.
Increased Marijuana Use
Since Montana legalized marijuana, there has been an increase in its use. According to a survey conducted by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, 15% of adults in the state reported using marijuana in the past 30 days, up from 9% in 2017.
This increase in marijuana use has raised concerns about its impact on motor vehicle safety. Marijuana can impair cognitive and motor skills, which can increase the risk of accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), marijuana use can impair driving performance for up to 3 hours after use.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Since Montana legalized marijuana, there has been an increase in motor vehicle accidents. According to data from the Montana Highway Patrol, there were 1,315 crashes involving drugs or alcohol in 2020, up from 1,247 in 2019. While it is unclear how many of these crashes were caused by marijuana use, the increase in drug-related crashes is concerning.
The NHTSA has also reported an increase in marijuana-related crashes nationwide. According to their research, the percentage of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana increased from 8% in 2013 to 18% in 2019.
Law Enforcement Challenges
One of the challenges facing law enforcement in Montana is how to detect marijuana impairment. Unlike alcohol, there is no universally accepted standard for measuring marijuana impairment. While blood tests can detect the presence of THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) in a person’s system, they cannot determine how impaired the person is.
This has led some law enforcement agencies to rely on field sobriety tests and drug recognition experts to detect marijuana impairment. However, these methods are not foolproof and can be challenged in court.
In response to the concerns about marijuana use and motor vehicle safety, Montana has taken several steps to address the issue. In 2021, the state passed a law that sets a legal limit for THC in a person’s system while driving. The law sets the limit at 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood, which is similar to the legal limit for alcohol.
The state has also launched a public education campaign to raise awareness about the risks of marijuana use and driving. The campaign includes billboards, social media ads, and other outreach efforts.
Montana’s legalization of marijuana has raised concerns about its impact on motor vehicle safety. Marijuana can impair cognitive and motor skills, which can increase the risk of accidents. Since Montana legalized marijuana, there has been an increase in its use and an increase in drug-related crashes.
To address these concerns, Montana has set a legal limit for THC in a person’s system while driving and launched a public education campaign to raise awareness about the risks of marijuana use and driving. However, detecting marijuana impairment remains a challenge for law enforcement, and more research is needed to better understand the impact of marijuana on motor vehicle safety.
The lawyers at Heenan & Cook specialize in representing the victims of impaired drivers and pursuing claims on their behalf. If you’ve been hurt by a drunk or impaired driver, contact Heenan & Cook, Montana’s injury lawyers.