Study Finds Correlation Between Legal Marijuana and More Car Accidents

Jeannette Daniel
June 24, 2017

As for advocates of marijuana legalization, they say there is still little to no evidence proving the use of marijuana caused any crashes.

The new study from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety looked at collision data for the first three states to legalize marijuana - Colorado, Washington and OR compared to other western states. Another study published Thursday tied an increase in auto insurance claims to marijuana legalization.

A 2016 study from Columbia University looked at fatalities in 19 different states before and after medical marijuana was legalized. Note a 2014 analysis by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, an anti-pot law enforcement group, which claimed that marijuana-impaired driving fatalities rose 100 percent in five years - an assertion ripped by critics because the study wasn't scientific, as even the RMHIDTA acknowledged.

More drivers have admitted that they use marijuana, but past research on the impact of driving while high remain inconclusive, experts said.

Here is the takeaway after all the eye-catching headlines: What we do know is that road safety has remained stable in states that have legalized marijuana. "The individual state analyses suggest that the size of the effect varies by state". "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".

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A new study that links vehicle crashes to marijuana shows auto accidents have gone up nearly three percent in three states where it is legal.

Washington was second highest with a six percent increase, and OR came last with just a four percent increase. Legal recreational pot sales in Colorado commenced in January 2014, while Washington and OR followed suit. "It looks like there's no statistically significant difference before or after, or compared to control states that didn't have those laws passed".

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

"Our study focused on deaths and actually found what we expected going into this", Jason Adedoyte, a trauma surgeon and lead author of the study, told Reuters. Neighboring states with similar fluctuations in claims were used for comparison.

"The worst thing that could have happened to the state of Colorado was passing the marijuana law", Lonnie Britton said. The findings "should give other states eyeing legalization pause", said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer, in a statement.

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