There are many reasons why auto accidents happen in New Jersey. One common cause is if a driver is under the influence. Many might view this as being alcohol-related. There is no doubt that a significant number of collisions are due to drunk drivers. However, drugs can also cause impairment and lead to an accident.
Marijuana use is being accepted more and more across the nation with a growing number of states choosing to legalize it. Recently, New Jersey has legalized it for recreational use. With that comes a growing fear that people will be prone to using it and getting behind the wheel.
After an auto accident in which there are injuries and the possible loss of life, it can be essential to know how and why it happened. This requires comprehensive help and a full investigation by qualified people.
Proposed law would track fatal accidents in which marijuana was a factor
A newly proposed bill would make it mandatory for New Jersey State Police to keep a record of how many fatal auto accidents came about due to marijuana use. The results would need to be part of an annual report. According to the bill’s sponsor, this is critical to know how big of an impact marijuana’s legalization is having on road safety.
It is already known that DUIs were a primary catalyst for fatal auto accidents in the state as recently as 2021. This was the third consecutive year in which fatal auto accidents were on the rise in the Garden State. Drivers who were under the influence of alcohol or drugs were involved in more than 200 accidents in 2021. This was up by 30% from the prior year.
With that, it is understandable that the legalization of marijuana is stoking concern that people could take that as a sign that it is acceptable to smoke and drive. Since legalization is not even a year old, there is little evidence one way or the other as to how it is impacting safety. Still, states that legalized it before New Jersey do have statistics about this.
In Colorado, where it was legalized nearly a decade ago, the number of fatal accidents in which a driver was found to have been using marijuana doubled between 2013 and 2017. This was widespread among states that legalized it. It is a problem to accurately test for marijuana as there is no broad-based testing procedure as there is with alcohol and breathalyzers.
Some states are expanding their use of Drug Recognition Experts (also referred to as DREs). These professionals are trained in recognizing when a person has been using marijuana and they can testify about it. Statistics show that 6% of New Jersey law enforcement officers had attained this status in 2022. That is too few for there to be an extensive analysis of how many people are injured or killed in a crash with someone who has been using marijuana. The law hopes to expand access to information.
Auto accident cases should be assessed by experienced professionals
Increased use of recreational marijuana through its legalization adds another layer to the litany of dangers that are present when taking to the road as a driver, passenger, bicyclist or pedestrian. Auto accidents can be financially and personally challenging with people wondering what they can do to fully recover in the aftermath.
If the accident was due to marijuana use, it is important to know this and to accrue evidence to help with a potential claim. From the outset, it is useful to talk with experienced professionals who know the New Jersey court system, are skillful at negotiating settlements and know their way around the courts. Calling for a consultation is a good place to start.