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Drunk drivers v. stoned drivers? The answers are not clear

Just how deadly are alcohol and marijuana for Virginia's drivers? While the fatal injuries associated with many car accidents do have concrete consequences, a study reveals that intoxicated driving is not always a "cut and dried" situation. The study, which was conducted over a period of 20 months in Virginia Beach, revealed unsurprising data about alcohol use, but the results about marijuana were less predictable.

Data collected from thousands of drivers showed a direct correlation between alcohol and car crash risk -- that is, the more you drink, the more likely you are to cause an auto accident. Those driving at the legal limit increase their risk four-fold, while those with a 0.20 percent blood alcohol content level are 24 times more likely to get in a crash. Marijuana, on the other hand, displayed far less identifiable risk, with stoned drivers only demonstrating a 25 percent increase in their likelihood of a collision.

In fact, the researchers in this case concluded that the drivers who got in the crashes were simply more likely to smoke pot; marijuana may not have had an impact on auto accident risk. That is to say that younger male drivers are more likely to have auto accidents in general -- the pot may not be directly responsible for the accident. Scientists call this a case of "correlation, not causation," when two events appear to simply happen together instead of one causing the other.

Regardless of the scientific data behind driving while intoxicated, the legal implications are clear: There are consequences for a stoned or drunk driver who causes an auto accident. No matter the substance of abuse, the negligent driver needs to be held accountable for his or her individual actions. Every victim of a drunk driver deserves the financial resources to treat their serious injuries associated with the car wreck.

Source: Cars.com News, "Marijuana's Effect on Driving Not Cut-and-Dried Issue, Study Shows," Matt Schmitz, July 23, 2015

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