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Kevin Ward Jr. Was Intoxicated When Killed on the Track

Sprint car racing is a dangerous sport. That point was driven home last month when a 20-year-old driver was struck and killed at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York. And now a new toxicology report shows that Kevin Ward Jr.’s decision-making skills were almost certainly affected by marijuana.

Unlike NASCAR, dirt track racing isn’t nearly as regulated or safety conscious. Drivers aren’t subjected to mandatory drug testing, either. These lax guidelines are likely what led Ward to get behind the wheel of his modified sprint car while under the influence of marijuana.

A Race Turned Tragic

After wrecking his car in Turn 2, Ward angrily got out of his car and walked onto the crowded race track. He was clearly upset, walking purposely toward the car of veteran NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. When Stewart saw Ward, he quickly turned the steering wheel to the left in order to avoid the young driver. With this being a dirt track, the rear end of Stewart’s car slid right and clipped Ward.

[Kevin Ward Jr.] suffered blunt force trauma and was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital.
Due to the impact, Ward’s body was thrown several feet. He suffered blunt force trauma and was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital. Thousands have wondered why Ward made such a dangerous decision; the content of this newly released toxicology report likely holds the key.

Ontario County (N.Y.) District Attorney Michael Tantillo said the level of marijuana in Ward’s system was definitely high enough to impair judgment.

Marijuana and Driving

Marijuana and driving simply do not mix. Pot seriously affects the safety skills that are required of a driver. For example, marijuana alters a driver’s alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time. The drug can also make it difficult to judge distances correctly or react to signals and sounds on the road. What’s more, the effects can hamper driving skills for at least four to six hours after smoking pot.
Studies have shown that people smoking marijuana exhibit the same lack of coordination on standard “drunk driver” tests as do people who have had too much to drink. In fact, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that marijuana nearly doubles the risk of vehicle collisions.

How Does Marijuana Impair Judgment?

People who are under the influence of cannabis often deny feeling impaired in any way. As with alcohol, marijuana has different effects on different people. There clearly is a lot of misconception surrounding the extent to which cannabis impairs drivers and their decision-making skills. A few of the most concerning side effects behind the wheel include:

  • Altered perception of time, distance, space, sights, sounds and touch
  • Impaired judgment and decision making
  • Loss of coordination and slowed reaction time
  • Disorientation
  • Sleepiness

Learn more about treatment options for marijuana abuse and treatment.