Redefining What Makes an Impaired Driver
For as long as there have been cars, there have been drunk drivers. But now there are not only drunk drivers, there are enough people impaired on other drugs that our law enforcement systems need to catch up with this new phenomenon.
Certainly, there have been drug-impaired drivers for many years. Even as far back as the 1960s, there were Miltowns (sedatives) and sleeping pills abused by many people. But now, as medical or recreational marijuana is legalized in many states, the laws have had to catch up with those who might drive after smoking pot.
Colorado tried to set a standard for the concentration of THC in a driver’s bloodstream that would make him an impaired driver. Washington then adopted this standard for impaired driving in their state. Both states set the standard at 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. While this was a noble attempt, in fact, the research supporting this standard was not yet complete and the standard has been challenged.
That’s one problem. Another problem is that THC does not clear from the body quickly. The Seattle Post Intelligencer noted that one study of pot users found that heavy users could still be impaired by their marijuana use weeks after stopping use. The study measured heavy cannabis users’ abilities to focus on tasks such as driving and found that “impairment was still observable compared to controls after 3 weeks of abstinence.”
Of course, there are many drugs being abused. Marijuana is just one of them but as the numbers of users increase, it’s an area to watch.