Does marijuana use increase the risk of a car accident or does it not? The answer to that question depends on which study you look at. In fact, in recent months, studies have come to seemingly opposite conclusions further muddying the picture.
A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analyzed vehicle collisions from January 2012 to October 2016. They compared the claims from states which had recently legalized marijuana and those neighboring states which had not. As of now, 3 states have legalized marijuana: Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. What they discovered was that collision frequencies were 3% higher in states that had legalized marijuana. While this number might seem small, it does show a significant increase that many believe could be tied to the legalized marijuana industry.
Seems like the answer is that marijuana increases the risk of a car accident – right?
Not so fast.
Another study recently published in the American Journal of Public Health found absolutely no increase in vehicle crash fatalities in either Colorado and Washington. They analyzed federal data from 2009 to 2015 and found no significant uptick in motor vehicle crash fatality rates in the first 3 years after legalized marijuana.
So do these studies actually show different and opposing conclusions? Not really.
The studies actually measured and looked at different things. The IIHS study simply observed motor vehicle collision rates, while the AJPH report was more concerned with fatal crashes. So in reality, while legalized marijuana may increase the risk of getting into a car accident, it doesn’t seem to increase the risk of dying in a car crash.
This is in line with current federal research that has shown that smoking pot before driving increases the likelihood of getting into a car accident. Yet, this is far less impairing than alcohol – which is already legal.
Another difference between the two studies was that the IIHS report compared neighboring states to the ones that had legalized marijuana. The AJPH study actually compared states that shared specific characteristics, such as traffic, roadways and population.
So while it seems that drugged driving is on the rise – fatal car accidents caused by drugged driving are not. This is some comfort for those states which have recently legalized marijuana and for those states looking to do the same in the near future.
Drugged Driving is Pervasive
Regardless of which study you look at – drugged driving is dangerous. Drugged driving puts passengers, drivers, and others at risk. Marijuana, can slow reaction time and impair judgement. Cocaine or methamphetamine use can result in aggressive and reckless driving. Sedatives can cause drowsiness behind the wheel of the car. All of these drugs can lead to serious and fatal car accidents.
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 20.7 million people drove under the influence of alcohol in the last year and 11.8 million drove under the influence of illicit drugs. The survey found that men were more likely to drive under the influence of both drugs and alcohol and many young drivers routinely do so.
When testing blood samples of drivers involved in crashes, marijuana was the most common drug found in the blood. Drivers with THC in their blood were twice as likely to be responsible for a deadly crash.
After marijuana, prescription drugs were responsible for many crashes. A 2010 study of deadly crashes found that 47% of drivers had used a prescription drug – most commonly pain relievers.
Contact Our Denver Car Accident Attorneys
If you or someone you love is injured in a car accident because of a drugged driver, our Denver car accident attorneys can help. When someone else’s negligence leads to your car accident and injuries, you need an experienced Denver car accident attorney on your side. We can help you collect the money you will need to recover from your injuries and resume your overall quality of life. Contact Gregory A. Gold of the Gold Law Firm today for a free consultation at (303) 694-4653.