More pot-impaired drivers in deadly crashes in Washington

By The Associated Press | Posted - Aug. 19, 2015 at 7:10 p.m.

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SEATTLE (AP) — More marijuana-using drivers are getting into fatal crashes in Washington, according to new data from the state Traffic Safety Commission.

Data released Wednesday show that the number of Washington drivers involved in deadly crashes who tested positive for active marijuana doubled from 2013 to 2014 — the first year of legal marijuana sales in the state.

Commission member Shelly Baldwin says that's alarming — especially considering that the number of alcohol-related fatal crashes has been dropping.

"When we see this rising trend, it's concerning, especially when other factors are decreasing," Baldwin said.

The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for active THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, had held fairly steady from 2010 to 2013 — between 32 and 38 per year. That number jumped to 75 in 2014, and about half were above the state's legal limit for marijuana-impaired driving, Baldwin said.

Many of those drivers also tested positive for alcohol or other drugs.

"We see drivers who have marijuana and alcohol and cocaine. They're not mutually exclusive because drivers are not mutually exclusive," Baldwin said.

Nevertheless, the number of fatal-crash drivers who had used pot shortly before driving represents a sliver of the total number of drivers involved in fatal crashes. Last year, there were 619 drivers involved in fatal accidents; 12 percent were positive for active THC. From 2010 through 2014, 7 percent of the 3,027 drivers in fatal crashes tested positive for active THC.

The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Washington who had been drinking, whether or not they were above the legal driving limit of 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content, has fallen from 214 in 2009 to 144 last year.


This story has been corrected to show the data was released Wednesday, not Tuesday.

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