While many people know the dangers of drunk driving, not everyone recognizes that stoned driving is risky. Although there isn’t yet official data on marijuana-related crashes in New York since its 2021 legalization, a study across five states found that nonfatal car accidents rose by 6.5% after the legalization of recreational cannabis.
The procedures you should follow after being struck by a stoned driver are similar to steps you’d take after being hit by a drunk driver. Explore what to do after a stoned driving accident and how Catalano Law can help you recover compensation for your injuries.
New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Code has no exemptions for marijuana. VAT § 1192 forbids driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, while VAT § 1227 specifically outlaws the use of cannabis while driving. Anyone who drives after smoking weed can be charged with a DWI.
Though the exact risks of stoned driving are still unclear, multiple studies have confirmed that THC impairs driving, much like alcohol. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana plants.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, stoned drivers are often less alert, more inattentive, potentially drowsy, and have impaired coordination and reaction times. This can significantly increase the risk of a crash.
There is no guaranteed way to tell that someone is driving while stoned, as stoned drivers share many of the same characteristics as drunk drivers. However, any sign of impairment is cause for concern. A stoned driver might:
- Drive much faster or slower than the speed limit
- Drift or weave between lanes
- Have near-collisions
- Fail to use signals or headlights
- Respond too quickly or slowly to stoplights, street signs, or other drivers
- Have their windows down in cold or snowy weather
Weed has a very strong smell, and its smoke is much thicker than tobacco smoke. If the driver is smoking behind the wheel, you may be able to smell it or see the smoke leaving the car.
A stoned driver can be just as dangerous as a drunk driver in a car accident. If you think a stoned driver struck you, notify the responding police officer and seek an attorney from Catalano law to help you understand your legal options.
Take the following steps if you are in an accident with a stoned driver:
- Seek Medical Attention
Victims of stoned driving accidents may face serious injuries, as the stoned driver may have been driving negligently, increasing the severity of the crash. After the collision, take a moment to assess your injuries. If you or the other driver are seriously injured, call 911; otherwise, seek medical attention after you’ve collected the other driver’s information and reported the crash to the police.
- Tell the Police Your Suspicions
When the police arrive at the accident scene, tell them you suspect the driver is stoned. Explain why you believe the driver is stoned so the police can investigate. They may notice obvious signs of use, like bloodshot eyes and a strong smell or a joint in the car, and include it in their report.
Unlike with alcohol, there are currently no tests that immediately detect whether a driver has recently smoked weed. However, the police can conduct saliva or urine tests to check the driver’s THC levels. While the driver has the right to refuse a chemical screening test, they will face penalties, starting with a $500 fine and license suspension for at least one year.
- Talk to Witnesses
Other drivers or pedestrians may have witnessed the stoned driver’s behavior leading up to the crash. Talk to these witnesses and ask if they would be willing to provide a statement to your attorney. If they agree, write down their name and phone number and give the information to your attorney from Catalano Law.
- Document Your Damages
After the accident, take pictures of your injuries and any damage to your car. If you receive medical treatment for your injuries, obtain a copy of your medical records and bills. This documentation is necessary when filing a claim with insurance and can assist your attorney if you file a lawsuit against the stoned driver later.
- Consult a Car Accident Attorney
New York is a no-fault state for car accidents. This means that in most cases, your insurance company compensates you for the costs of your damages under your Personal Protection Insurance (PIP) policy, regardless of who caused the accident. However, if you suffered serious damages in the accident or your insurance policy doesn’t cover all of your losses, you may be able to file a claim against the other driver to cover your damages.
If you’ve suffered serious injuries due to a stoned driver, consult with a car accident attorney in New York. Your attorney can review the facts of your case and determine whether you have a valid claim against the stoned driver.
Too many sober drivers suffer as a result of someone else’s decision to drive stoned. If a stoned driver seriously injured you or a loved one, the legal team at Catalano Law can help you recover compensation for your losses.
Catalano Law’s attorneys are highly knowledgeable about New York State traffic law. We will use that specialized knowledge to build the strongest case possible to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.