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Marijuana involved in one third of drug-impaired crashes in 2018

According to an investigation by 8 On Your Side, marijuana played a role in nearly one in three motor vehicle crashes involving drugs in 2018. Preliminary data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) shows that of the 422 deaths in these crashes, marijuana was the drug most commonly involved.

This study marks the first time such trends have been tracked across Florida. As recently as July of 2018, few understood how much of a role marijuana played in traffic accidents across the state. As both police officers and the law learn to identify and charge drug-impaired drivers, this study could lead to further efforts to pinpoint the exact drugs involved in crashes and crack down on impaired drivers.

Floridas efforts to identify impaired drivers

Because evaluating the levels of marijuana or other drugs is more complex than evaluating blood alcohol content (BAC) levels, police officers look for these five signs of impairment:

  • A delayed reaction time in movements, responses and more
  • Loss or limitations in short-term memory
  • Limited hand-eye coordination
  • Difficulties focusing on the task at hand
  • Lessened ability to perceive both time and distance

Notably, there is no specific impairment limit for marijuana, unlike the state's .08 BAC level for alcohol. According to the DHSMV, marijuana can affect everyone differently, potentially causing drowsiness, a false sense of alertness, an inability to appropriately react and more.

Penalties for driving while impaired

During a traffic stop for suspicion of driving while impaired, a police officer may ask you to take a breath test in addition to a blood or urine test. Refusing a Breathalyzer test can result in the suspension of your driver’s license for up to one year. However, because THC can remain in the body for days or weeks, the results of any breath or chemical test can be faulty and potentially challenged.

Because of this, officers often rely on roadside signs of impairment. Penalties for a conviction can include jail time, steep fines, the suspension of your driver’s license, the start of a criminal record and more. When you face charges of driving while impaired, an attorney can help to fight a conviction and a mark on your criminal record.

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