Marijuana Use By Drivers And The Potential For Motorcycle Accidents

Driving While Impaired By Drugs

Marijuana for recreational use was legalized in Illinois. This legalization, subject to various conditions, became effective January 1, 2020.

Questions have arisen as to what, if any, impact this legalization of recreational cannabis will have with regard to traffic safety. As seen in many Illinois motorcycle accidents, many have been caused by an impaired motorist who collides with a motorcycle. The subject of drug-impaired motorists and the threat they pose to motorcyclists is further discussed on “The Danger To Motorcyclists Presented By Drugged Drivers” page.

As mentioned on that page, there are many drugs that have been used by drug-impaired drivers. Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs used by those who drive while impaired by drugs.

Marijuana Use As A Cause Of Driver Impairment

The effect that drug usage has on drivers can be complex. Many factors determine the type, length, and severity of a driver’s impairment. Furthermore, how and whether the impairment causes a motorist to make mistakes can be difficult to predict.

As mentioned above, cannabis is one of the most common drugs used by drug-impaired drivers. The subject of marijuana usage and the resulting driver impairment is discussed on the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) page titled “Does marijuana use affect driving?”

An excerpt:

Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.7–9 

Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in vehicle crashes, including fatal ones.10 Two large European studies found that drivers with THC in their blood were roughly twice as likely to be culpable for a fatal crash than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol.11,12 However, the role played by marijuana in crashes is often unclear because it can be detected in body fluids for days or even weeks after intoxication and because people frequently combine it with alcohol. Those involved in vehicle crashes with THC in their blood, particularly higher levels, are three to seven times more likely to be responsible for the incident than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol. The risk associated with marijuana in combination with alcohol appears to be greater than that for either drug by itself.8

Additional commentary concerning cannabis use and its effect on driving is seen in the NHTSA report of July 2017 titled “Marijuana-Impaired Driving.” One of the main topics discussed is how to determine whether a driver has been impaired by marijuana usage, and whether this driver impairment can be definitively tested and proven.

The Frequency Of Driving After Using Marijuana

One recent study, from the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety, indicates the frequency of driving after using marijuana. The study also indicates the increased likelihood that the impaired driver will crash. An excerpt from the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety news release of June 19, 2019, titled “Americans Don’t Think They’ll Get Arrested For Driving High“:

Nearly 70% of Americans think it’s unlikely a driver will get caught by police for driving while high on marijuana, according to a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey. An alarming finding shows that an estimated 14.8 million drivers report getting behind the wheel within one hour after using marijuana in the past 30 days. The impairing effects of marijuana are usually experienced within the first one to four hours after using the drug.1 And marijuana users who drive high are up to twice as likely to be involved in a crash.2

Motorcyclists’ vulnerability to drivers who are inattentive and/or impaired is well-documented. On this site, there have been many Illinois motorcycle accidents that have involved a distracted or impaired motorist who collides with a motorcycle. These accidents often result in serious, if not life-threatening injuries to the motorcyclist, and if applicable, passenger. Many of these injuries have resulted in the death of the motorcyclist and passenger.

One of the main reasons that motorcycles are hit by cars or other vehicles is that the motorcycle is “not seen” by the motorist. This reason is often cited in one of the most common and serious types of motorcycle accidents – when a vehicle makes a left-hand turn immediately in front of an oncoming motorcycle. Often, this will lead to a serious collision between the vehicle and motorcycle. Due to the dynamics of this type of crash, serious injuries often result due to the high degree of the physical trauma.

If a driver is impaired by drugs and/or alcohol, there may be a more pronounced inability for this motorist “to see” the motorcyclist and act accordingly. The reasons for this are various, but are known to exist after cannabis usage. This aspect is discussed in the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety news release mentioned above:

“Marijuana can significantly alter reaction times and impair a driver’s judgment. Yet, many drivers don’t consider marijuana-impaired driving as risky as other behaviors like driving drunk or talking on the phone while driving,” said Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “It is important for everyone to understand that driving after recently using marijuana can put themselves and others at risk.”

What To Do If You Are Injured In An Accident

By their nature, motorcycle accidents often result in serious accident injuries. These injuries can be broad in nature and can range in severity.

Due to the often serious nature of motorcycle crash injuries, and the potential for these injuries to be life-threatening in nature, it is imperative that various steps are taken to protect the injured person’s health. Even if the injuries don’t appear to be serious in nature, there are many serious injuries that may not be readily apparent right after the accident. For this reason, as well as others, it is highly recommended that those hurt get a thorough medical examination as soon as possible after the accident. These exams are typically performed in the hospital emergency room (ER). This exam serves many purposes, primarily in that all injuries can be properly identified and properly treated. This exam is also beneficial from a legal perspective.

There are other steps that should be taken to address legal issues. These steps preserve the ability to get the maximum amount of compensation for one’s injuries, if the accident was the fault of another person or party.

This injury compensation is sought via the filing of a personal injury lawsuit. [In fatal accidents, relevant parties can pursue compensation through the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit.]

While there are many reasons for filing a personal injury lawsuit, often those injured due to the negligence and/or carelessness of another person will have a pressing need for injury compensation. Medical bills, even for those with insurance, can be (very) high, depending upon the injuries involved. As such, pursuing money for injuries can be immensely important.

Due to the accident and associated injuries, other financial issues may arise. For instance, the person hurt may be temporarily unable to work. If the person is seriously injured, this recovery period can last for weeks or months. Additional financial challenges may be presented if the injuries have resulted in one or more permanent impairments. Such permanent impairments can alter the person’s ability to perform various tasks.

Depending upon the overall injury situation and related issues, there can be many types of injury compensation potentially available. This compensation is typically sought through the filing of a personal injury lawsuit. Compensation types can include (but are not limited to) those for:

  • Medical bills (past, current and future)
  • Rehabilitation, including physical and occupational rehabilitation
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of function
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of consortium
  • Other economic damages

The Elman Joseph Law Group, comprised of Illinois personal injury trial lawyers, can provide an overview as to what types of compensation – as well as what amounts – may be reasonably expected given the characteristics of the accident and the associated injuries.

If you were injured in an accident, the Elman Joseph Law Group provides a free legal consultation that is confidential. Call Tony Elman, Lead Trial Attorney at the Elman Joseph Law Group, at (773) 392-8182 to discuss the accident and see what can be done to get injury compensation.

Elman Joseph Law Group, LLC has been handling Illinois personal injury cases for 25+ years, over which time it has handled over 10,000 personal injury cases.  Through this extensive experience, the Elman Joseph Law Group has become known for its court trial performance.  As seen in many of its cases, this successful trial experience may (substantially) increase potential accident injury compensation.

Elman Joseph Law Group, LLC handles cases on a “contingency” basis…clients are not charged legal fees unless and until they get money.