Washington State Leads the Nation in Stoned Driver Fatalities

On July 15, 2015, two stoned driver accidents — one fatal — occurred in Spokane, Washington, on the same day.  A motorcyclist  was seriously injured in the first accident.  An hour and a half later, a bicyclist killed was killed.  

The state of Washington leads the nation with 27% of their fatal accidents being caused by drivers using marijuana, according to Phillip Drum, PharmD.   (In 2013 there were 209 impaired-driving fatalities in Washington, and in 2014 there were 207 impaired-driving fatalities.)

With the popularity of bicycling in Oregon, let’s hope legalization doesn’t lead to a similar rise in DUID deaths in the state of Oregon.

Legalized marijuana has led to drugged driving accident increases nationwide.  Marijuana is present nationally in 15% of DUI-driver fatalities per new data from NHTSA, Drum explains.  So despite reductions in impaired driving fatalities from all other causes, the 54% increase in the number of marijuana-impaired driving fatalities from 2013 to 2014 lead to a zero net sum in the total number of fatalities. Data accessed on 10/11/15 from  http://wtsc.wa.gov/research-data/quarterly-target-zero-data/)

Winward High School
Site of the Winward High School crash where 2 students were killed, 2 others injured. The driver was a daily marijuana user who claimed not to have smoked pot that day.

It appears the statistics this year, 2015,  will be very much like last year,  with the horrendous scourge of stoned drivers.  On the 4th of July, Jennifer Barry an Oregon resident, was killed by a stoned driver going 120 miles on I-5, near Olympia, Washington.

As is often the case, the driver was not harmed.  Two drivers who killed five high school students in cases where marijuana impairment is suspected also came out unharmed.  The first accident happened in January,  when a stoned 17-year old high school student drove 75 miles in 45 mile zone.    He hit a tree and three of his classmates died. 

In June 2015, a man charged onto the sidewalk in North Bellingham, killing two high school students on their way to gym class. Two more students were injured.  The driver admitted to smoking marijuana every day but said he had not used marijuana that morning.  The 32-year-old driver, whose THC was below Washington’s 5 ng measure for impairment, claimed to have fallen asleep.  However, an adult with normal reflexes would wake up immediately and slam on the brakes as he or she went over the curb.  Perhaps Washington should consider a lower THC limit, 1-2 ng.

Site of Puyallup, Washington car-bicycle crash which killed Pastor Eric Renz, a humanitarian leader in the community.
Site of Puyallup, Washington car-bicycle crash which killed Pastor Eric Renz, a humanitarian leader in the community.

Last November, Pastor Eric Renz was struck by a stoned driver as he road his bike.  He died two weeks later.   Here’s an analysis of the 61-page report released by the state of Washington this year.

Phillip Drum lost his sister, Rosemary Tempel, who was killed by a stoned driver in July, 2012.   The driver had so many previous infractions, including DUID and domestic violence charges.

With the stoned driving problem, it’s quite possible that Washington has an even bigger marijuana problem them Colorado.  In one small city, there have been five pedestrian deaths.  It has had problems with hash oil fires, like Colorado, some of the blasts even more explosive than in Colorado.  Fifteen-year-old Jaylen Fryberg, shot and killed 4 other students in a Washington high school cafeteria in October, 2014.  Reading his Twitter feed brought to light his heavy marijuana use which former girlfriend said made him stupid.

There’s also frequent shootings from marijuana drug deals gone wrong.    Washington is hardly is the celebration one may think based on the annual Hemp Fest in Seattle each year.

Held since 1991, Seattle's Hempfest attracts 100,000 each year to celebrate and worship a psychoactive plant which can cause psychosis.
Since 1991, visitors have gone to Seattle to worship a psychoactive plant at the Hempfest.

Read our most recent article on the difficulty or measuring impairment in stoned drivers.