New Mexico has a serious and deadly problem with intoxicated drivers. Our state has one of the highest fatality rates in the nation when it comes to car accidents that involve an intoxicated driver.
Now that recreational marijuana has been legalized for adults, there is concern that cannabis is going to make the problem worse.
It’s a legitimate concern. A recent AAA survey found that people who drink and use marijuana at the same time are some of the most dangerous drivers on the road.
This group is more likely to speed, text, intentionally run red lights, and drive aggressively than others, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said.
At the Szantho Law Firm, we represent many victims of accidents involving intoxicated drivers. While serving the Middle Rio Grande community over the years, we have seen more and more “poly-drug” drivers causing accidents. A poly-drug user is someone who is impaired or intoxicated by more than one type of drug at the same time — such as marijuana and alcohol.
In about a year, recreational marijuana dispensaries will start to open across New Mexico. In late June, people can start planting their own cannabis. The new availability is almost certain to increase the number of people driving drunk and stoned.
Mixing alcohol & marijuana increases the risk of car accidents
The national AAA study compared people who drive on marijuana and alcohol with people who drive on alcohol only to determine whether mixing weed with booze changes behavior behind the wheel.
The self-reported study asked people in the two groups whether they had engaged in specific risky behaviors.
Here’s what they said:
- Speeding in residential areas - 55% of marijuana-alcohol-influenced drivers said they did this compared to 35% of drunk drivers who admitted the same.
- Aggressive driving - 52% of drivers intoxicated on cannabis and alcohol admitted to this, while 28% of alcohol-only influenced drivers did.
- International red-light running - 48% of people who mixed marijuana and alcohol confessed to doing this and 32% of alcohol-only drivers said they agreed that they do engage in this kind of driving.
- Texting while driving - 40% of drunk-high drivers and 21% of drunk drivers admitted to this risky driving behavior.
The report noted sober drivers were far less likely to perform any of these risky driving behaviors. The most dangerous thing sober people said they do on the road is drive while drowsy.
Impaired driving crashes in New Mexico
It’s difficult to gauge how many people are driving intoxicated or impaired on marijuana and alcohol in New Mexico. Available state records do not distinguish between crashes involving marijuana, poly-drugs, or alcohol. All of these are tracked under one category: driving while intoxicated or DWI.
Marijuana use has been found to have many negative effects on a person’s ability to drive. It slows reaction time, impairs judgment of time and distance, and decreases coordination. When mixed with alcohol, marijuana can increase a person’s heart rate and blood pressure as well as further slow mental processing and reaction time.
You shouldn’t have to suffer due to another driver’s negligence
It is not clear exactly how legalized marijuana will impact the safety of New Mexico roadways, but it is unlikely to make our already dangerous roads safer.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident with an impaired driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. Find out how an experienced car accident lawyer in New Mexico can help you recover every dollar you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.