California: Are you ready for the rise in traffic deaths?

Joseph Bresnyan, a 40-year-old father of four, was killed by a stoned driver while changing a flat tire along Interstate 80 near Sacramento on May 3.  The other driver tested positive for  THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.   When pot shops start selling recreational marijuana next week, California will need to prepare for more drivers under the influence of pot.  Californians, beware!!

A family photo of the Bresnyan family taken at Disneyland in April 2017. Photo from a GoFundMe page, used with permission of the family.

The man who killed Joseph Bresnyan didn’t realize how dangerous it is to drive after smoking pot.  The public shares much of this ignorance.   Law enforcement is scrambling to find good ways to test for and control stoned driving, but they haven’t found a solution.

Bresnyan left  behind his wife, Jennifer, and four children: LeighAnn, 15, Colton, 9,  Gage, 6, and Jaxson, 2.  Joseph played an active part in his kids’ lives, as a family photo in Disneyland last April suggests.  He never smoked, drank or used drugs.

California braces for more DUI driving fatalities

The State  Assembly blew off multiple attempts to protect the public by implementing per se THC limits, in both 2013 and 2014.

When California opens commercial marijuana stores in January, law enforcement will have not good tools to prevent drivers high on marijuana.

A driver who killed California Highway Patrol officer,  Andrew Camilleri, father of three, on December 24,  may have used both alcohol and marijuana.

Karla Salazar, killed by a stoned driver on October 18

Karla Salazar, 18, died on October 22, because a  driver under the influence of marijuana crashed into her from behind at a stoplight.

California’s refusal to pass bills to regulate stoned driving probably reflects the power and money of marijuana industry lobbyists.

Other states fail, too

Nevada opened its first recreational marijuana shops  six months ago.  On December 13, a stoned driver killed 3 pedestrians in Las Vegas, and caused a 12 -car traffic incident.  The crash held up traffic for hours.

In Colorado, traffic deaths with drivers under the influence of marijuana doubled, from 55 deaths in 2013 to 123 deaths in 2016.

A recent report stated that “drugged” driving outpaced drunk driving as the cause of fatal crashes for in 2015.   It happened for the first time in 2015, but  the trend is expected to grow as legalization of pot grows.  Marijuana is the drug most frequently found  in fatal DUI drug cases, not opioids or heroin.

Portland for Positive Impact warns of impaired driving, more common during the holidays. Jazzy Smith, 19, was one of three pedestrians killed by stoned driver in Nevada, December 13

RMHIDTA Report confirms crashes involving marijuana impairment

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Assessment issued its 5th HIDTA Report since the  legalization of marijuana in Colorado.

Colorado experienced 608 traffic deaths in 2016, and, of these, 147 traffic deaths, involved marijuana in some way.  It was not always the driver who tested positive for THC, but could have been a cyclist orpedestrian. In a total of 147 marijuana-related traffic deaths, the tally shows:

100 were drivers

19 were passengers

21 were pedestrians

7 were bicyclists

A large portion of marijuana positive drivers in Colorado also tested positive for alcohol, 36%.  This figure equals the percentage who test positive for marijuana only.  Additionally, 21% of marijuana DUI drivers in fatal crashes used other drugs and 7% mixed marijuana, alcohol and other drugs.

Teen study in legal states also troubling

Other studies prove the widespread ignorance of the dangers of driving while high.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Students Against Destructive Decisions conducted a study of 2800 teens in states that have legalized marijuana.

One third of those surveyed thought that driving under the influence of marijuana is legal in states where it’s recreational.  More than 20% of teens reported it’s common among their friends. The study also found that parents’ perceptions were not much different.  Of the 1,000 who took the survey, 27% said it’s legal and 14% said it’s common among friends.

Among all those who took the survey, 88% thought drunk driving was dangerous, while 68% thought stoned driving was bad.

Colorado Department of Transportation Study

The Colorado Department of Transportation also conducted a survey.   It showed disturbing trends in the adult population of Colorado.   The survey revealed that 57% of people who reported using marijuana drove within two hours after consumption.  Participants who reported consuming and then driving said they did so on 11.7 days a month.  By comparison, 38% of respondents who drank alcoholic beverages reported driving within two hours of consumption.

For infrequent pot users, delaying driving at least 6 hours after smoking less than 18 mg THC  (8 hours after oral ingestion) allows THC-induced impairment. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported this information in the 2016 Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado.  However, the report said that for those who use pot more frequently or higher THC pot, these guidelines do not apply and they should consider not driving at all.

More traffic deaths involve pot each year

The driver who killed Rose Navarro at a bus stop in Vallejo in June, 2015, was under influence of marijuana, and had just left a medical marijuana dispensary. Five others were injured, including Navarro’s 4-year-old daughter.

There were 3,335 marijuana-related U.S. driving fatalities in 2016.  As the percentage of marijuana positive drivers in fatal crashes edges toward equality with alcohol, the public is rising up in anger.

Alfred Crancer, Alfred Crancer and Associates, San Francisco, and Phillip Drum, PharmD, issued a press release with comparative analysis.    Marijuana impairment now comprises 24.2% of the fatal crashes in states that have legalized marijuana.  That figure competes with the 28.7% of fatal crashes involving alcohol impairment.  The eight states that are included in this statistic are AK, CA, CO, MA, ME, NV, OR and WA.

Driving under the influence of marijuana significantly impairs motor coordination, judgment and reaction time. Stoners who brag about not getting into accidents may run out of  luck at some point.

For more information on marijuana-impaired driving fatalities, call Alfred Crancer, 925 324 2093.