Marijuana DUI rates rise while drunk driving declines

A new study indicates that there may be an increase of drivers influenced by marijuana on the Arizona roadways. While marijuana-impaired driving is on the rise, alcohol-impaired driving is on the decline, according to the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol & Drug Use by Drivers.

AAA’s senior research scientist from its Foundation for Traffic Safety says that marijuana and alcohol impair drivers in different ways; however, both are dangerous. Legally, intoxication by any substance that impairs the ability to drive safely is prohibited for drivers in all 50 states.

The 2013-2014 findings from both blood and oral fluid samples showed drug impairment in 22 percent of daytime drivers and 23 percent of nighttime drivers. For daytime drivers, 9 percent were impaired by THC, the active component in marijuana. For nighttime drivers, THC impairment was 13 percent. Marijuana was the most frequent drug used by all the impaired drivers.

These findings came from two projects conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The AAA researcher says that these findings do not offer guidance on the question of the legalization of marijuana for either recreational or medical use, but they do provide information on the subject of drug use and driving.

Arizona has some of the toughest DUI laws in the country. When a driver has a BAC level of at least 0.15 percent, they can be charged with extreme drunk driving. For drivers under the age of 21, drunk driving charges follow a zero tolerance model, meaning an underage driver can be charged with any trace of alcohol in their system.