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Study Finds that Accident Rates Rise where Marijuana Legalized

Marijuana leaf with maginfying glass

The legalization of recreational marijuana use is becoming increasingly common across the US, and even more states have legalized the use of medical marijuana. Recently, more medical marijuana dispensaries have begun appearing right here in the Hudson Valley. As marijuana becomes more widely available, some have begun wondering what sort of safety consequences this change in the law will have on local roads, and whether the increased availability of marijuana will result in a greater share of accidents. Two recent studies have found that states that have legalized recreational marijuana use may experience a higher rate of car accidents.

Effects of marijuana on driver safety not often studied

Surprisingly little research has been done on the degree to which marijuana use affects the ability to drive. There is some evidence from simulation studies that marijuana use can impair certain driver abilities, but studies of real-world driving data have produced less conclusive links between the drug and accident rates. One large federal study could not find a link between the use of marijuana and crash rates, while another study found a crash rate of almost double the average among marijuana users.

THC and fatal accident rates

In order to look at the potential impact of marijuana legalization on roadway safety, both the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) have recently conducted studies looking for a link between marijuana use and accident rates. The AAA Foundation study looked at the number of drivers in Washington state who were found to have THC (the active chemical in marijuana) in their system at the time of a fatal accident. The study found that the number of drivers with THC in their systems during a fatal crash doubled between 2013 and 2014. Washington voted to legalize marijuana in 2012, and retail sales of marijuana began in July of 2014.

Increase in collision claims

The study conducted by the HLDI looked at the collision claim rates in three states that have legalized recreational marijuana use and begun selling it (Washington, Colorado and Oregon), compared to the rates in neighboring states. The study found that, on average, states that had legalized marijuana had a 3% higher collision claim rate than other states. Collision claims are claims based on physical damage to the driver’s vehicle and are typically filed by the at-fault driver. Colorado experienced the highest increase in claim frequency, with a 14% higher rate than three neighboring states.

If you’ve been injured by an intoxicated driver in New York, find out if you have a legal claim for damages based on your injuries by contacting the knowledgeable, experienced and effective Pine Bush personal injury lawyers at Ingber & Provost for a consultation, at 845-733-2720, with additional offices in Bloomingburg and Poughkeepsie.