Any lawyer who handles both personal injury and criminal defense cases will tell you that there’s a big difference between proving who was at fault for a car accident and whether or not the at-fault party was guilty of a crime.
Take, for instance, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
California voters recently defeated Proposition 19, which sought to end marijuana prohibition and allow limited possession and cultivation, by a relatively slight margin of 54 percent. There were myriad reasons to vote for Prop 19 as there were against it.
Those who voted against Prop 19 were likely concerned with driving while high – ending marijuana prohibition would cause an increase in those who purchased and smoked marijuana – and thus lead to greater numbers of marijuana-influenced motorists causing accidents.
Stoned, Drunk or Texting
At first glance, driving under the influence of marijuana seems to be just as bad as drunk driving in terms of impairment and risk to safety. After all, good driving requires the full attention of a completely sober motorist – and even undivided attention may not be enough to avoid a car wreck in some cases.
But while marijuana possession remains illegal in California, to many experts it is not clear that driving while high on marijuana is as dangerous as drunk driving – calling into question whether, had Prop 19 passed, legal marijuana would be a direct cause of more accidents.
As Eric Morris writes on the New York Times Freakonomics blog, “Lab work is a better reflection of what people can do than what they actually do,” referring to studies showing that drivers high on marijuana tended to drive safer than those who were drunk. Under lab conditions, drivers knew they were being watched.
So, we conclude (as an attorney would) that negligence is negligence. To be stoned, drunk or texting is failing to drive safely.