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Letter: Driving while drugged is a risky possibility

“If you feel different, you drive different.” A recent campaign from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration highlights the sobering dangers of drugged driving. Regardless if a substance is legal, any linked impairment poses a threat to all who share the road.

It has been proven that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive or mind-altering chemical found in recreational cannabis – slows reaction time, impairs cognitive performance, and causes difficultly for drivers to remain steady.

In conjunction with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed marijuana legalization, the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse seeks to educate the community on the health risks associated with usage and driving.

In comparison to states that have not legalized recreational cannabis, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington display trends of higher collision claims filed to insurers. Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute found an increase in car crashes related to legal cannabis usage from January 2012 through October 2017.

Another report, conducted in 2016 by the Division of Criminal Justice, found that 73 percent of Colorado’s drivers charged with driving under the influence tested positive for marijuana. Nearly 50 percent of those who tested positive were found to have over the legal amount of THC in their blood system (five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol), and had admitted to usage within two hours before getting behind the wheel.

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area also released a study in 2016 tracking the impact of marijuana legalization in the state of Colorado.

The study found that the three-year average of marijuana-related traffic deaths in Colorado post legalization increased 48 percent.

Although dangerous, cannabis impaired driving is merely one of many potential obstacles New York State will face if continuing down the path of legalization.

Joshua Vacanti

for the

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