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Police face high hurdles with legalized pot and driving

Legalized marijuana in Illinois presents challenges for the detection of impaired driving. Car accident risks may grow because state law enforcement authorities are unprepared to detect drivers impaired by marijuana.

Unlike drunk driving enforcement, there is no breath test for marijuana. A police spokesperson said that technology for accurately checking marijuana-related impairment may be months or even years away.

Furthermore, the cost and time to train more police officers on conducting field sobriety tests for marijuana is unknown. Field tests for marijuana differ from drunk driving but may be used to underly charges for marijuana-impaired DUI. A spokesperson said that police will not be ready until Jan. 1, 2020.

The legal limit in Illinois for THC, the active ingredient of marijuana, in a driver's blood stream is 5 nanograms/ml. Saliva-testing has been done that could detect THC at levels above 25 nanograms/ml. These results were promising, but further testing will be required.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that there was a 48 percent increase in the prevalence of motorists testing positive for THC at any level from 2007 to 2013-2014. While the risks of alcohol and driving have been known for decades, the NHTSA said that comparatively little is known about the risks of marijuana. However, there is evidence that marijuana impairs psychomotor skills, attention, lane tracking and cognitive functions.

Victims of car accidents caused by impaired drivers may be entitled to medical expenses and other compensation. An experienced attorney can help obtain evidence and pursue a lawsuit.

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