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New numbers reveal marijuana increasing as a factor in deadly crashes in Washington

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SEATTLE -- It’s an alarming trend -- more people involved in deadly crashes are testing positive for marijuana.

“We have seen marijuana involvement in fatal crashes remain steady over the years, and then it just spiked in 2014,” said Dr. Staci Hoff, director of the Washington Transportation Safety Commission's Data and Research department.

“It’s unfortunate that marijuana is playing a bigger role in deadly crashes in Washington,” said Wilma Comenat of MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

That's why the organization, well known for their fight against drinking and driving, is now turning its attention to what they call drugging and driving.

“Your reflexes are slower ... your reflexes are not 100%,” Comenat said.

According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, the number of drivers involved in deadly crashes who tested positive for marijuana increased 48% in 2014.

That’s the same year the first batch of recreational pot stores opened for business in Washington.

Researchers say they don’t know if legalization is the reason for the spike but the new data is concerning.

“In our eyes, one driver impaired is a lot,” Comenat said.

The safety commission says the number of drivers testing positive for active THC increased from 65% in 2013 to 85% in 2014.

In 2013, 60 of 592 drivers involved in fatal crashes tested positive for marijuana. And researchers say 38 of those 60 tested positive for active THC, which means they were high behind the wheel.

In 2014, 89 drivers of 619 involved in fatal crashes also tested positive for pot. And 75 of those 89 tested positive for active THC.

About half of these THC-positive drivers exceeded the 5ng/ml THC per se limit.

“Innocent people get hurt all the time,” said John Cheesman, of the Pierce County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force.

Police say his 26-year-old uncle, Jayce Randall, was drunk and high when he flipped his car on Highway 16 near Purdy. Randall's 9-year-old died after being ejected from the car.

This past weekend, law enforcement kicked off a statewide patrol looking for impaired drivers.

“Make sure you are taking care of your friends, too, if you notice they are drinking too much or taken an illegal drug or smoking marijuana; make sure they get home safe,” Cheesman said.

Because one bad choice could kill someone, not only impacting the victim but so many around them.

“You are injuring the families, you are injuring the friends of those people; they are just as impacted from the crash as the victim,” Comenat said.

It is against the law to smoke marijuana while driving. You also cannot keep pot in your car unless it is in its original sealed package or in the trunk or in another place not occupied by people.