As more states consider legalizing marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use, there are a few pressing questions on the minds of many citizens. One of them has to do with traffic safety. Many people are concerned that someone might get high on the Mary Jane and get behind the wheel of a vehicle, leading to an auto accident. While information is still scarce, there have been some studies done since a few states legalized the use of recreational cannabis a few years ago.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety performed a study by analyzing the number of insurance claims filed in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington from January 2012 through October 2016. They compared the claims from those states, which had legalized the use of recreational marijuana, to surrounding states that had not yet legalized it. The results showed that accident claims were 3 percent higher in states with legal recreational marijuana use.
It is important to note that the IIHS study looked at overall crashes and did not necessarily take into account the state of the drivers. While this number is a significant increase, it does not mean that those additional crashes were categorized as a marijuana car accident.
If the IIHS study has you up in arms, then you might consider another one. The American Journal of Public Health also looked at crash data in Colorado and Washington to compare crash data. The findings of that study concluded that legalization did not lead to an increase of fatal crashes within the first three years of passing the law. The AJPH also conducted another study that indicated the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes did not increase vehicle fatalities.
If you look at the data from the studies, it seems to be possible that legalizing recreational marijuana slightly increases the risk of a minor car accident. However, it appears to have no effect on fatal car crashes. It is important to keep in mind that recreational marijuana use does, in fact, increase the risk of crashing while driving, so it is not recommended that people use it if they are going to be driving. However, the risk of drinking and driving is still far greater. Laws are still coming into place, so keep in mind that as recreational marijuana does become legal in areas, more laws regarding its use in public spaces – particularly in regards to driving – are sure to pop up as well.