Driving While Impaired (DWI) is not limited to just alcohol. Research suggests that in instances of driving while impaired due to the use of drugs, specifically marijuana appears to have an increased rate of involvement in motor vehicle accidents. Marijuana has been identified most frequently in the blood of drivers involved in accidents, including those that resulted in fatalities. However, it can be difficult to pinpoint whether marijuana impairment plays a direct role in car accidents because the drug can be detected in bodily fluids for days and sometimes as long as a few weeks, while the symptoms of intoxication typically only last a couple of hours.
Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggest that during the early months of 2020 and the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, driving patterns and behaviors in the United States changed significantly. Among the drivers who remained on the roads, many engaged in riskier behavior, including failure to wear seatbelts, speeding, and driving while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. Another study on seriously or fatally injured car accident victims mentioned that five participating trauma centers reported almost two-thirds of drivers involved in an accident tested positive for at least one active drug, including alcohol, marijuana, and opioids between mid-March and mid-July of 2020.
Until recently, testing for drug impairment has been somewhat problematic due to limitations regarding drug-detecting technology and the lack of a consumption limit for the purposes of determining impairment. Now, a company by the name of “Gaize” has been in the process of developing a new technological device that can detect drug impairment among drivers in the United States. This new technology is the first roadside test for identifying marijuana impairment in drivers. The device consists of goggles, similar to those used in virtual reality, which detects involuntary micro-movements that transmit information about someone’s impairment or sobriety. Gaize conducts the same testing that is performed during a Standardized Field Sobriety Test and captures irrefutable video evidence of eye movement.
With marijuana use increasing dramatically in the United States, this new technology can decipher between heavy users, who may have a large amount of THC in their system but are sober, and infrequent users, who may have a very small amount of THC in their system but are extremely impaired.
If you choose to use impairing substances, be sure to do so responsibly by planning ahead for a sober driver, prevent your friends from getting behind the wheel if they are impaired.
Cheyenne M. Hensley, Legal Assistant