As Washington State gets closer and closer to legalizing marijuana, the fact that the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) found Washington to have one of the highest rates of drugged driving in the country has raised some questions as to what effect that kind of legislation will have on drivers and pedestrians.

Not only is marijuana legal to use as a medicinal pain remedy for various approved illnesses in Washington, but Seattle as a municipality has de-prioritized it for police officers, basically saying to recreational users that it’s okay to use if an officer isn’t around.

In fact, almost every ballot over the past few cycles has marijuana related legislation for voters to give their voice to. Even some politicians can be seen stumping at Hemp Fest, which indicates where the marijuana legislation winds are wafting.

Now this upcoming November ballot has not only a choice for president, but also the option to decriminalize marijuana in Washington and rendering it legal to be packaged and sold to the public as well as being taxed and regulated as such. The Initiative-502, dubbed “New Approach Washington,” is not only expected to inject millions of dollars into the state budget, but also widen access.

This is not only expected to increase the number of customers who wouldn’t have bought marijuana due to the risk and lack of access, this could potentially skyrocket Washington to number one on the list of drugged driving states. Many advocates point to studies that show there is no change in driving ability when a person is high on marijuana, however, a recent study released this week strongly disputes those claims.

Marijuana and Driving

Researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada reviewed nine studies involving 49,411 people involved in accidents on public roads involving one or more motor vehicles. The study including all vehicles licensed to drive on streets, cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles, where the drivers cited the use of marijuana or use was confirmed by blood tests.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) this month, found drivers who had used marijuana within three hours of beginning to drive had nearly double the risk of causing a collision, especially those that were fatal.

“Results show that if cannabis is consumed before driving a motor vehicle, the risk of collision is nearly doubled. Previous results have also found that there is also a substantially higher chance of collision if the driver is aged 35 or younger,” researchers wrote.

Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug worldwide and rates of its use in drivers are increasing. The study cites a 2007 study in Scotland that found 15% of 537 drivers aged 17 to 39 had used marijuana within 12 hours of driving at the time of the study.

“The consumption of cannabis impairs motor tasks important to safe driving, increasing the chance of collisions and that future reviews should assess less severe collisions from a general driving population,” the authors of the study suggested.

Drugged Driving in Washington State

Currently only 19 states have laws prohibiting any amount of drugs while operating a vehicle, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). The laws in Washington State for driving under the influence (DUI) are pretty explicit.

According to RCW 46.61.502: (1) A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state:

  • (a) And the person has, within two hours after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or
  • (b) While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or
  • (c) While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug.

Testing for drugs is also a lot different than alcohol. Many times a police officer needs to see the telling signs of drug use and take a suspect in for tests alternative to breathalyzer in order to determine the type and amount of drugs taken. The telling signs vary according to the drug the suspect has taken. Some of the signs of various drugs are:

  • Marijuana – This has a distinctive sweet or nutty and smoky smell. Drivers often speak slowly or take longs pauses before responding. They have blood shot eyes and can show signs of fatigue. Field sobriety tests are unreliable. Blood tests and hair follicle tests required.
  • Amphetamines – This category includes cocaine and meth amphetamine. When smoked, they can have a distinct toxic burning smell. There can also be residue left over on the dashboard. The driver speaks quickly in bursts, interrupts, and elicits paranoid behavior. Field sobriety tests are unreliable. Blood tests and hair follicle tests required.
  • Pharmaceuticals and Opioids – Many people don’t view these as dangerous or illegal to drive on, however, many pain killers are made from opium, the same as heroin. These drugs are known as opioids, and they can cause numbness, drowsiness, and blackouts. Field sobriety tests are effective in detecting that the person is under the influence. Blood tests and hair follicle tests required.

Seattle DUI Victims Lawyers

Marijuana legislation and the outcome is only our concern when it comes to the safety of our roads. DUI has been on the decline and is expected to further decline as laws become more strict and the consequences become more costly. Hopefully, if marijuana laws are passed, the proper education programs and media are implemented in order to warn the public and kids about the dangers of marijuana use and driving.

If you or someone you know have sustained serious personal injuries as a victim of a negligent driving accident then you need experienced counsel to protect your interests with the insurance companies and health care providers. Call the Seattle car accident attorneys at Phillips Law Firm for a free consultation.


Dangers of Driving with a Cold


It is cold season and with all of these people walking around the streets or sitting at their desks sneezing and coughing and downing shots of Dayquil like it’s Jagermeister at a frat party, it’s no wonder that they may have some trouble getting home and sometimes get into auto accidents.

And if a person is sick and single, or at least left to fend for themselves at home while their spouse or significant other is at work, it seems that driving is required to get to the store in order to get some (any) relief…and ice cream. Walking long distances when you barely have the energy to lift your head seems overwhelming, but getting to the car is just as hard.

However, now science has stepped forward and proven that driving with a heavy cold can affect ability to the same extent as drinking more than four double whiskies. Wow, now that IS a frat party!

Driving With A Cold

Could the most dangerous people on the road potentially be totally sober, if not for the bacteria that’s trying it’s hardest to consume them? Safety experts suggest the answer could be “yes.”


British Insurance company Young Marmalade, which carried out the research jointly with UK car and bike accessory manufactuerer, Halfords, say that they have found a dramatic increase in poor driving when cold sufferers were subjected to scientific tests.

Researchers say that driver’s reaction times dropped sharply when they had severe cold symptoms, sudden braking became much more frequent and cornering became erratic as the test subjects were found to be less aware of what was around them.

The research team used what is called a “telematic” box, which records drivers’ speed, braking, and cornering, just like the little black box one might find on an airplane. After a thorough examination of the data, researchers found that a participant who had an “excellent” driving rating of 95% when healthy dropped to 60% when suffering from a cold.

Based on a common UK rating system, a person at 60% should expect to be involved in an accident and may be deemed uninsurable by normal insurance companies. It inspired Young Marmalade to issue a warning for motorists not to drive with heavy colds or flu.

“We would advise a commonsense approach. A heavy cold can impair a driver’s mood, concentration and judgment, if you don’t feel well don’t drive,” they said.

Cardiff University Common Cold Unit in South Wales has also come out with similar conclusions from research they conducted in 2011 involving cold and flu sufferers. They found that their subjects had poor reaction times and alertness, putting them at risk of being involved in an serious car accident.

Symptoms of Bad Driving

Though it is almost impossible to truly gauge statistically, insurance companies suspect sick drivers are responsible for thousands of accidents every year. Police warn that drivers getting behind the wheel while suffering a heavy cold could potentially be putting other drivers at risk and could be found to be driving under the influence (DUI) if they’ve been found to have consumed too much over the counter medicines with alcohol in them. However, they also warn that flus and colds can lead to dangerous, even reckless, behavior.

“Sneezing can be very violent, especially with a severe cold and causes the sufferer to close their eyes temporarily,” said Pc Steve Rounds, of the Central Motorway Police Group.

Symptoms that should make you reconsider driving:

    • Fever (100º F or greater) – Fevers can cause lightheadedness and confusion and have even been known to cause hallucinations if they are greater than 104º. Every flu is accompanied a temperature, but if it exceeds 100º do not operate a vehicle.
    • Headache – A mild headache and operating a vehicle can be fine, but a flu headache resembles that of a migraine. Light and sound are abrasive and painful causing the sufferer to close their eyes and beg for quiet and darkness. Flu headaches can cause blurred vision, excessive blinking, confusion, and severe shooting pain. You should not drive with those symptoms.
    • Muscle aches – These are irritating, but driving with them is not a potential cause of a car accident unless pain medication is taken (see below).
    • Chills – This is a sign of a fever and should prompt the sufferer to stay in bed.
    • Extreme tiredness – This is a very bad symptom to be driving on. Drowsy driving causes thousands of car accidents and thousands of deaths and injuries every year as tired drivers drift into oncoming lanes and off of roads.
    • Coughing or Sneezing – A hacking cough or excessive sneezing can cause the driver to take their hand temporarily off of the wheel and may cause them to close their eyes. This can be a problem when accidents can happen in a split second.
    • Runny nose – This symptom is just irritating and gross, but doesn’t really contribute to accidents. But driving with one hand while the other is occupied with a tissue only adds to the over dangerousness of driving with a cold.

Seattle Car Accident Attorney

Washington law is very specific about its reckless driving laws, including such things as tailgating, speeding, and driving erratically. Though it may be found that sick drivers are not under the influence of cough syrup or other cold and flu drugs, if they get into a car accident they could potentially be found negligent reckless driving by driving erratically.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident in the state of Washington, you need an experienced representative to assure you receive the best settlement. Call the Seattle car accident attorneys at Phillips Law Firm for a free consultation.


New Years Eve has passed and slowly the tally of drunk drivers caught over that notorious night and the DUI heavy holiday season come in from local and state law enforcement agencies. So far, the tally looks pretty normal with some municipalities showing an increase and some a decrease. But what they don’t seem to tally are the excuses. When some people make a mistake, they like to blame the alcohol. “I was drunk!” they might say, but this is seldom an excuse used by drunk drivers for obvious reasons. So how do they explain away their behavior? Well, who knows or cares, because as new research shows, there are no good excuses when it comes to DUI, because the drivers are fully aware of what they’re doing. That’s right, DUI drivers can now give a laundry list of excuses, but that won’t eliminate the fact that they were completely aware that they had been drinking and were then getting into a car and that is not only a mistake, but illegal.

DUI Awareness Study

The new study called Alcohol Effects on Performance Monitoring and Adjustment: Affect Modulation and Impairment of Evaluative Cognitive Control, can be seen in the upcoming edition of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology and was paid for by the The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the University of Missouri Research Board. The study took brain tests of 67 people and showed that alcohol dulls a mechanism in the brain that tells an individual to stop their behavior when they realize they’re making mistakes. Essentially, the study shows that people who commit blunders while under the influence of alcohol know they’re doing it; they just don’t care.

“This isn’t the first study that shows alcohol alters the behavior of those who consume it, but it’s the first to show they don’t care that they’re making mistakes,” said Bartholow, associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri-Columbia and lead researcher.

The implications of this study is that people who put the public in danger by drinking and getting behind the wheel can’t blame it on not having control because they are fully aware of their behavior, the potential for serious car accidents. The study group derived of people between the ages of 21 and 35 that were broken into three groups:

Group A – One-third of the participants received drinks with enough alcohol to raise their blood levels to just under the legal driving limit of .08 blood alcohol content (BAC). Researchers noted that all participants in the control group got the same amount and they didn’t measure if the effect was gradual. Group B – Another third of the participants received non-alcoholic placebo drinks, however they didn’t know if the drinks contained alcohol or not.Group C – A third received drinks they knew contained no alcohol.

Each group was then assigned tasks designed to elicit mistakes. Researchers used devices on the participants to measure brain activity as the subjects took the tests. Medical technology exists to measure brain activity for impulse control, emotion, mood and other functions. With these devices they recorded results as they observed various factors in participants behavior during the tests such as

  • Mood and demeanor
  • Accuracy in computer tasks
  • Perception of accuracy in the tasks

Though this was a computerized test and not a driving simulator, the moral and reactionary tests were similar. When the mechanism is working, researchers observed that the participants that didn’t ingest alcohol slow down and either tried not to make the mistake again, or they take corrective action. However, the control group that had alcohol was observed to be more likely to disregard the moral stop sign, even though they knew what they were doing. It became apparent that non-drinkers had normal activity in the part of the brain that regulated recognizing mistakes, whereas drinkers had less activity.

“Normally, someone who makes mistakes is aware and makes an effort not to make that mistake again,” Bartholow said. “Drinkers made less of an effort or simply moved past their errors even though they knew they’d made errors.”

The dulling of the brain’s mistake alarm only occurred among people who had alcoholic beverages, he said, and added that using alcohol doesn’t allow someone to escape culpability.

Drinking and Driving In Washington State

Washington State DUI laws, like most laws around the world, prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle by a driver not only under the influence of alcohol, but also under the influence of a controlled substance such as marijuana, cocaine, inhalants and other intoxicants. These include prescription drugs that specifically warn against operating machinery. The .08 percent limit is a general standard used across the US to determine which drivers are “impaired.” Washington has lower BAC limits for commercial drivers (.04) and drivers under the age of 21 (.02). This ensures that underage drivers and commercial drivers stay alert and responsible. The DUI limits translate as such: DRINK EQUIVALENTS: 1 drink / 1 dose equals:

  • 1 1/2 ounces of rum, rye, scotch, brandy, gin, vodka etc.
  • 1 12-oz. bottle of normal-strength beer 3-4%
  • Approximately 7 – 8 oz. of Malt Liquor, or a strong micro brew.
  • 3 ounces of fortified wine
  • 4 – 5 ounces of table wine

Allow an hour per dose before returning to work. Example 2 glasses of wine, allow two hours from time of last dose.

Seattle DUI Victims Lawyers

If you or a loved one sustain serious personal injuries caused by a drunk driver then it is imperative that you find a good lawyer with a proven track record of success in personal injury litigation. Call Phillips Law Firm for a free consultation. Learn More About:

  • Types of Injuries Sustained in a Car Accident
  • Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
  • Personal Injury Settlements