The Impact of Legal Marijuana on Nevada Car Accidents & What to Do After a Crash?

James Oronoz

In 2017, Nevada became one of the first U.S. states to legalize recreational marijuana, sparking discussions on everything from crime to road safety and taxes. As the smoke clears, one central question remains – How has legal marijuana impacted road safety in Nevada?

According to an analysis of states that have legalized adult-use cannabis, such as Nevada, initially, traffic crash injuries saw a 6.5% increase following legalization. However, this surge occurred before retail sales began. The rate declined by 0.7% after marijuana became available for purchase. But ultimately, fatal crash rates rose by 2.3% post-legalization and by an additional 1.8% after retail sales began.

Here, the Las Vegas car accident lawyers at Oronoz & Ericsson, LLC examine the correlation between marijuana legalization and accident rates and guide what to do if you are involved in a collision with a driver under the influence of marijuana.

Recreational Marijuana in Nevada & Car Accidents

In November 2016, Nevada voters approved Question 2, which legalized recreational marijuana. The law went into effect on January 1, 2017, allowing adults 21 and over to possess and use marijuana. Retail cannabis sales began on July 1, 2017, making it readily available through licensed dispensaries.

What are Nevada’s Marijuana Driving Laws?

In Nevada, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana. The state enforces strict DUI laws that apply to all intoxicants, including marijuana. For marijuana, the legal limit is 2 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, and exceeding this threshold can lead to a Nevada drugged driving charge.

Penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana range from fines and DUI school attendance to license suspension and potential jail time, with increased severity for repeat offenses.

How Does Marijuana Affect Driving?

Marijuana impairs driving by affecting the brain regions responsible for coordination, balance, and judgment, leading to slower reaction times and poor spatial judgment. This can reduce the ability to respond to traffic changes, control speed, and read road signs.

Unlike alcohol, which often leads to risk-taking, marijuana typically slows driver responses and decision-making skills. Drivers under the influence might weave within their lanes or react slowly to traffic signals. While both substances impair driving, their effects differ notably.

Alcohol consumption tends to reduce inhibition and increase aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding. In contrast, marijuana affects concentration and perception, leading to cautious yet impaired driving behaviors such as slower speeds and delayed reactions.

The combination of alcohol and marijuana results in more significant impairment, compounding the risks associated with each substance. 

Has Legal Weed Led to More Nevada Car Accidents?

The short answer is it’s complicated. According to the Office of Traffic Safety, there has been an increase in car accidents in Nevada following the legalization of marijuana.  Specifically, the report indicates that from 2020 to 2021, there was a 17.61% increase in overall crashes and a 19.15% increase in fatalities across Nevada.

While the number of fatal crashes specifically involving only marijuana showed a minor increase from 37 to 38 incidents, the broader category of poly-substance involvement (any combination of drugs and/or alcohol) saw a 10.20% increase in fatalities. This suggests that marijuana, particularly when combined with other substances, has contributed to an increase in traffic incidents in Nevada.

Marijuana Auto Accidents: Victim Info

As Las Vegas injury lawyers, we realize the data paints a complex picture. While the initial injury rate dipped after retail sales began, the rise in fatal crashes, particularly those involving multiple substances, is concerning. This trend highlights the importance of responsible marijuana use and awareness for both drivers and potential victims of marijuana-related accidents.

What if You’re in a Car Accident with a High Driver

If you’re involved in an accident where the other driver is suspected of being under the influence of marijuana, taking the proper steps after a crash immediately can be crucial for your safety and legal rights:

How a Lawyer Helps After a Marijuana-Related Accident

An experienced personal injury attorney plays a crucial role in cases involving accidents where one party was potentially under the influence of marijuana. Much like drunk driving car accidents, they can effectively gather and compile evidence to demonstrate impairment, which might include chemical or blood drug tests, any drugs or paraphernalia found in the driver’s vehicle, the driver’s history of prior drug offenses, and witness accounts of the driver’s behavior.

While a driver involved in such an incident may face criminal charges, it’s essential to understand that this is distinct from a civil claim for damages. In a civil claim, the focus is on proving liability and obtaining compensation for injuries and damages, regardless of the outcome or existence of criminal charges.

An attorney’s role in a civil case is to establish that the impaired driving led to the accident and injuries claimed, thereby ensuring just compensation for the victim, independent of any criminal proceedings that may or may not occur against the driver.

Are Marijuana Accident Victims Entitled to Damages?

Regardless of marijuana being legal for adult use, that doesn’t mean it’s ok to drive high and put others at risk. So, just like any injury-causing auto accident due to negligence, marijuana car accident victims are entitled to damages for the harm and injuries they endured. This includes compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related costs.

The compensation after a marijuana-involved crash aims to restore the victims’ financial and physical well-being, as much as possible, covering aspects such as:

Responsible Cannabis Use & Awareness for the Injured

Despite being legal for several years at this point, determining the full impact of legal marijuana on Nevada’s roads isn’t clear-cut. But as we navigate this evolving landscape, staying informed about the current laws about marijuana use and understanding your rights as a driver is paramount.

If you find yourself involved in an accident with a driver suspected of being under the influence of marijuana, it’s essential to take action to protect your safety and legal rights.

Let Our Las Vegas Car Accident Lawyers Help

Whether the at-fault driver was impaired by marijuana, alcohol, or other distractions, the team at Oronoz & Ericsson Injury Lawyers, LLC is here to support you. Our experienced lawyers will thoroughly investigate your case, gather necessary evidence, and work diligently to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

We have years of trial experience and have helped thousands just like you. Call (702) 878-2889 for a free, no-risk consultation.

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