As marijuana becomes more “mainstream,” it’s easy for drivers to underestimate the drug’s effects and misjudge their driving abilities. A report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that among fatally-injured drivers who tested positive for drugs in 2016, 38 percent tested positive for some form of marijuana.

Yet, the extent to which it impairs skills and cognition while driving is widely debated. Since there isn’t a universal definition of “drugged driving” and no specific amount of marijuana indicates impairment in all bodies, lawmakers and insurance experts struggle to set clear guidelines for drivers.

If drivers are involved in a collision with marijuana in their system, they can face the same harsh penalties as they would if caught with a DUI. The reality is legal troubles and auto insurance penalties are just as likely.

So, if you choose to use marijuana – legally or illegally depending on where you live - how can you protect yourself and other drivers through your auto insurance policy?

Begin by understanding how the laws in your state define driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs. What’s legal in one state might be unlawful in another, so be informed before crossing state lines.

Take stock of your body’s response to the drug. Consider the various side effects that users experience after consuming marijuana, which is typically a result of frequency of use, and be familiar with your own pattern of reaction. Even if you’re aware of marijuana’s effects on your body, remember that Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive chemical compound in cannabis, can remain in the bloodstream for at least 30 days after it’s consumed.

Don’t underestimate the considerable risks related to your auto insurance. Similar to having a DUI on your record, if you’re involved in a collision, a Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) is damaging to your auto insurance policy. You would become a red flag and your insurance premium would likely skyrocket or, in an extreme case, your policy could be canceled. It can be extremely difficult to obtain insurance elsewhere, and a policy with your state’s automobile insurance plan might be your only - much pricier - option.

Additionally, your driver’s license could be suspended, and you might need to file an expensive SR-22 certificate in order to renew it.

The risks are compounded if you have others on your auto insurance policy. For instance, parents need to be aware of the implications their teenager’s marijuana use can have on their insurance if they’re involved in a collision. Consider an umbrella policy as an extra layer of protection in the event your teen driver causes serious harm.

It’s clear that cannabis use impairs drivers, endangers others, and puts insurance rates in jeopardy. Don’t underestimate the risks or mistake it as a benign substance. Reach out to your HUB broker to protect yourself and understand how to mitigate your risks.