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As Legal Weed Comes to the Hudson Valley, An Increase in Car Crashes May Follow

In March of 2021, New York State legalized marijuana use for adults 21 and older. It is now legal to use marijuana anywhere it is legal to use tobacco, and it is expected that there will be retail locations to legally buy marijuana as early as April 2022. Just as with alcohol, it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana; but it is more complicated to determine if a driver is under the influence. 

Which Hudson Valley towns will allow marijuana dispensaries?

According to the Albany Times-Union, Hudson Valley towns like Newburgh, Kingston, Hudson, Saugerties, Woodstock and New Paltz plan to allow dispensaries and on-site smoking. Rhinebeck, Goshen, New Windsor, Middletown and Crawford have announced their plans to opt out of dispensaries, while the Town of Ulster has announced its intention to allow dispensaries but no on-site smoking.

What effect will legal marijuana have on Hudson Valley car crashes and driving safety?

Whatever the outcome is in our specific communities, one thing is clear: there is going to be an increase in drivers on the road who are under the influence of marijuana in the coming years. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued a report in June that said crash rates spiked in states like California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

“Our latest research makes it clear that legalizing marijuana for recreational use does increase overall crash rates,” says IIHS-HLDI President David Harkey. “That’s obviously something policymakers and safety professionals will need to address as more states move to liberalize their laws — even if the way marijuana affects crash risk for individual drivers remains uncertain.”

The report went on to say that drivers who are high on marijuana react more slowly, have a harder time paying attention, have more difficulty keeping their vehicle in its proper lane, and more decision making errors. At the same time, drivers who are high on marijuana are more likely to drive at slow speeds, make fewer attempts to pass other cars, and keep more distance between their car and others. The study also noted that a burst of enthusiasm wore off over time and led to a leveling off of crashes.

What will happen in personal injury cases that involve marijuana?

No matter what the drug is, the fundamental principle is that drivers have a duty of care to other people when they get in their vehicle. Even though substances like alcohol and marijuana are legal, when a driver decides to get behind a wheel under the influence, they are failing to act with the same level of caution and care that a reasonable person would exercise.  

When a car crash occurs, the challenge is proving that the other driver failed their duty of care. If the damages exceed a certain amount, the other driver’s insurance company would then have to cover the medical bills and other expenses and injuries that the accident victim suffered in a crash. Police arriving to the scene of an accident have to complete a police report, where they can note if the negligent driver failed a field sobriety test or report a smell of marijuana in their vehicle. It may also be possible for a personal injury lawyer to trace the steps of an intoxicated driver prior to the accident; the driver is coming home from a dispensary, for example.

What to do if you’ve been injured by a marijuana-impaired driver in the Hudson Valley

If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of a driver in the Hudson Valley, call Mainetti & Mainetti, P.C. at 845-600-0000 to schedule a free consultation at our personal injury law offices in Kingston, NY and Poughkeepsie, NY. We have decades of experience in litigating and winning tough personal injury cases for our clients, receiving the maximum possible compensation for their injuries.