Legal pot blamed for spike in auto crashes

Jun 24, 2017, 00:54
Legal pot blamed for spike in auto crashes

In Colorado, Oregon and Washington - three states with legal, recreational marijuana - collision claims are approximately 3 percent higher than they should have been without legal weed, according to the HLDI's analysis.

The study, which tracks collision claims from 2012 to 2016, found that Colorado had nearly 14 percent more crashes than neighboring states where marijuana was still illegal. Collision claims have increased as a result, according to a auto insurance-related non-profit.

A 2016 study from Columbia University looked at fatalities in 19 different states before and after medical marijuana was legalized. "Post-recreational marijuana legalization changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado also did not significantly differ from those for the control states". A urine test, the current measure of whether a driver may be impaired by marijuana, will detect THC, however there is now no scientific consensus on what level of THC constitutes impaired driving.

A study released a year ago by AAA's safety foundation found legal THC limits established by states with legal marijuana have no scientific basis and can result in innocent drivers being convicted, and guilty drivers being released.

The study states that legalized pot smoking actually leads to more collisions, and this is the first time a group has found a link between being high and impaired driving.

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The combined effect for the three states was a small but significant nearly three percent, according to the HLDI Vice President Matt Moore. "During the study period, Nevada and Montana permitted medical use of marijuana, Wyoming and Utah allowed only limited use for medical purposes, and Idaho didn't permit any use".

The study did not say if the increase in collisions in the three states were directly caused by high drivers. Retail sales began in January 2014 in Colorado and in July 2014 in Washington.

Griffin said the two studies show that more needs to be done to understand the potential effects of marijuana on driving ability.

Colorado saw the biggest estimated increase in claim frequency compared to its control states, according to the institute.

According to the group's statistics, crash rates have spiked in Colorado, Washington and OR by 16 percent, 6.2 percent, and 4.5 percent, respectively. In the coming years, more research from the institute and others will help sharpen the focus.

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"The increased availability of marijuana may be reducing alcohol use in some states", said Santaella-Tenorio.

"The worst thing that could have happened to the state of Colorado was passing the marijuana law", Lonnie Britton said.

Mason Tvert with the Marijuana Policy Project, which fights to legalize marijuana, had something to say about that.

The researchers pulled the data not just for Washington and Colorado, but also for eight other states - Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texasand Wisconsin - that could serve as comparisons.

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