Cannabis legalization could result in more auto crashes

Frederick Owens
October 21, 2018

The study compared the crash rates of the 4 states with legal recreational marijuana with 4 states where it is not legal.

Legalized marijuana has been linked to an increase in vehicle accidents, according to a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety-Highway Loss Data Institute.

Harkey said 14 percent of drivers confirmed to be using marijuana had a child in their vehicle, reflecting concerns that marijuana use isn't as confined as alcohol use, which tends to happen most in evenings and weekends.

"It's certainly early in the game", David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Highway Loss Data Institute, told NBC News.

Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, with retail sales beginning in 2014.

Driving high is illegal across the United States and Canada.

He recommends that "states exploring legalizing marijuana should consider this effect on highway safety".

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"It's very challenging - we know very well how to measure blood alcohol concentrations, we know how to take those numbers and turn them into laws, such as the.08 laws that we have for legal limits with regards to alcohol, we're not at the same level of knowledge with respect to marijuana", Harkey said.

Researchers know a lot about the direct link between alcohol and auto crashes but are still working on defining the nature and scope of how marijuana contributes to crashes, the report noted. Many states don't include consistent information on driver drug use in crash reports, and policies and procedures for drug testing are inconsistent.

As more US states legalize marijuana, a debate is growing around whether greater availability of cannabis products is causing an increase in auto accidents.

These findings come as campaigns to decriminalize marijuana gain traction with voters and legislators in the US and in light of Canada legalizing recreational use of marijuana on Wednesday.

In a Washington State Roadside Survey, drivers who tested positive for THC were less likely to agree that marijuana impairs driving.

The findings are being presented at a law enforcement summit. That followed stark warnings from the National Transportation Safety Board, which on Tuesday issued several recommendations to combat drug-impaired driving.

Indeed, IIHS found that drivers are largely unaware of the risks of using marijuana while driving.

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