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The risks of drunk driving have been well-known in the United States for several decades, but it is important to remember that Title 75 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 3802 specifically prohibits driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or controlled substance. Controlled substances are the drugs or chemicals whose manufacture, possession, and use are regulated (or controlled) by the government, and results from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA's) 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed marijuana was "the most frequently detected drug (other than alcohol) in crash-involved drivers as well as the general driving population."
Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance in Pennsylvania, meaning that it is considered to be a drug with a high potential for abuse; no currently accepted medical use in the United States; and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Drivers who cause traffic accidents as the result of operating while under the influence of cannabis may face criminal charges, but any restitution that is ordered by a judge in the criminal case will only result in a victim being compensated for out-of-pocket expenses—not necessarily any noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.
If you sustained serious injuries or your loved one was killed in an accident in southeastern Pennsylvania caused by a driver you believe was under the influence of cannabis, it is in your best interest to immediately retain legal counsel. Ciccarelli Law Offices represents clients injured in automobile crashes in communities throughout Chester County, Montgomery County, Lancaster County, Delaware County, and the greater Philadelphia area.
Our West Chester personal injury lawyers can investigate the circumstances surrounding your accident and hold the negligent party fully accountable. Call (610) 719-3190 to have our attorneys provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free initial consultation.
The effects of alcohol on a person's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle have been fairly well-researched and are widely accepted by most of the public. The effects of driving while under the influence of a controlled substance (more commonly known as "drugged driving") are not as well-documented, but some research has shed insight on the dangers that specific drugs pose.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers for the control drivers (Li, Bradya, & Chen, 2013; Romano, Torres-Saavedra, Voas, & Lacey, 2014) "estimated the increased risk of crash involvement for drivers using marijuana at 1.83 times that of drug-free drivers."
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that marijuana "significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time." NIDA cites two large European studies that found drivers with THC in their blood were "roughly twice as likely" to be culpable for fatal crashes than drivers without drugs or alcohol.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, "affects areas of the brain that control your body’s movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment." The CDC also stated that the number of self-reported marijuana users was increasing, with 7,000 new users of marijuana per day in 2014 and the 13 percent of nighttime and weekend drivers having marijuana in their systems that year being an increase from the 9 percent in 2007.
After you have been involved in any traffic accident, you will want to contact the local law enforcement agency in order to file a police report. If you suspect the motorist at fault for the crash was under the influence of cannabis, you should be sure to inform the officer who arrives at the scene of the accident.
If a police officer also suspects the driver is under the influence of marijuana, he or she may attempt to get the motorist to submit to chemical tests, such as blood draws or urinalysis. It is important to note that Title 42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 6142 makes a plea of guilty or nolo contendere in any summary proceeding made by any person charged with a violation of Title 75 (relating to vehicles, such as DUI) inadmissible as evidence in any civil matter arising out of the same violation or under the same facts or circumstances.
Before you speak to any insurance company, you will want to make sure to quickly contact an experienced West Chester personal injury lawyer. An attorney will be able to take the steps necessary to help you obtain the compensation for noneconomic damages such as disfigurement, loss of consortium, or other types of harm that are not covered by the economic damages which may be included as part of restitution orders in criminal cases.
AAA Poll: Pennsylvania drivers concerned about ‘drugged driving’ — On March 30, the Pennsylvania AAA Federation and the Pennsylvania DUI Association held a Drugged Driving Summit to study the issue and develop an action plan specific to Pennsylvania. According to the Times Leader, an exclusive AAA poll found that 72 percent of Pennsylvania drivers said they were somewhat or very concerned about the dangers posed by others driving under the influence of marijuana should it be legalized for recreational use, and 92 percent considered someone driving after using illegal drugs a serious threat to their safety. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana more than doubled—from 8 percent to 17 percent—following the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Washington State in November 2012.
Pennsylvania Drugged Driving | National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) — NORML is a nonprofit public-interest advocacy group that claims to be the “oldest and largest marijuana legalization organization in the country.” Visit this section of the NORML website to learn more about Pennsylvania's drugged driving laws, including the threshold level for THC or its metabolites that can be introduced as evidence of a per se violation of the state drugged driving statute. You can also read more about implied consent, an affirmative defense, and related case law.
Did you suffer catastrophic injuries or was your loved one killed in a crash caused by a driver who was under the influence of marijuana? You will want to contact Ciccarelli Law Offices as soon as possible.
Our personal injury attorneys in West Chester have office locations in Malvern, King of Prussia, Plymouth Square, Lancaster, Radnor, Kennett Square, Springfield, and Philadelphia. Our lawyers can review your case and help you understand all of your legal options as soon as you call (610) 719-3190 or submit an online contact form to set up a free, no obligation consultation.