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Gov. Brown Signs Marijuana Law Banning Use in Motor Vehicles

With California set to legalize recreational marijuana on January 1, 2018, Gov. Gerry Brown recently signed legislation that prohibits using pot while driving or riding in a motor vehicle. As San Diego injury lawyers, we are hopeful that the new law will help curb the expected uptick in drugged driving crashes

California Drugged Driving Crashes

In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers found that approximately 20 percent of drivers tested positive for at least one drug. A California study found more than one quarter (26.5 percent) of drivers testing positive for marijuana also tested positive for at least one other drug.

Studies confirm that driving while under the influence of marijuana can interfere with attentiveness, as well as the perception of time and speed. In addition, the higher the levels of THC, the greater the risks drivers take while behind the wheel. For instance, drivers with large amounts of THC in their blood tend to make erratic lane changes, react slower to traffic lights and unexpected obstacles, and are less aware of their speed.

Mixing alcohol and marijuana can be a particularly dangerous combination. A recent study found that the concurrent use of alcohol and marijuana among drivers increases the risk of a fatal crash by more than five times when compared with non-impaired drivers.

New California Marijuana Law

In 2014, 38 percent of all drivers who were killed in California motor vehicle crashes tested positive for legal and/or illegal drugs. The number of drugged driving crashes has been increasing every year and is projected to climb in the wake of the passage of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

It is already illegal to drive under the influence (DUI) of marijuana. Pursuant to California Vehicle Code 23152(e): “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug [including marijuana] to drive a vehicle.”

“SB-65 Vehicles: Alcohol and Marijuana: Penalties” amends Section 23220 of the California Vehicle Code to make marijuana use while driving akin to driving with an open container of alcohol. It specifically makes smoking or ingesting marijuana or any marijuana product while driving, or while riding as a passenger in, a motor an infraction with a base fine of $70.

If you or someone you love has suffered serious injury in a California drugged driving crash, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.