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Fatal crashes increase on marijuana holiday

Tennessee drivers concerned about traffic safety and marijuana usage may have reason to worry. The American Medical Association's periodical JAMA Internal Medicine recently detailed an epidemiological study that shows a spike in traffic fatalities on April 20, the unofficial holiday upon which marijuana activists promote its usage.

Although the study does not explicitly link crash data to marijuana usage, it did examine data collected on April 20, 1992, and each subsequent April 20 through 2016. The crash statistics were compared to the days and weeks prior for each year. Fatal crash incidents proved to be 12 percent more likely on April 20 as compared to the surrounding days over the 25 years in which data was examined. Since it is not specifically noted on accident reports whether marijuana was a factor, researchers extrapolated the potential link to suspected higher usage of marijuana on April 20 to make the case. Similar research has shown a spike in alcohol-related fatalities that coincide with New Year's Eve and the annual Super Bowl.

Motorists driving under the influence of any intoxicant, including marijuana, run the risk of being cited for violation of DUI laws. There is no instrument such as a breathalyzer to measure marijuana's chemical concentration in the bloodstream, but officers are trained in methods of observation that are generally trusted and upheld by courts when supported by other evidence of impaired driving, such as erratic maneuvers and delayed reactions to traffic signals. Penalties can include stiff fines, mandatory incarceration and the loss of driving privileges.

Anyone charged with drunk driving faces serious consequences if convicted. It is not uncommon for authorities to make mistakes while observing the driving and sobriety testing of accused individuals. An experienced and qualified criminal defense lawyer may work to ensure that every process is properly completed and provide appropriate legal defenses.

Source: "Driving Under the Influence, of Marijuana." The New York Times. Koerth-Baker, M. February 17, 2014.

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