Car Accident Rates Higher in States with Legalized Marijuana

In recent years, a number of states have decriminalized marijuana, with some states legalizing medical marijuana and others making it permissible for people to use marijuana for recreational purposes.

However, statistics show that marijuana legalization may come with serious consequences. Specifically, reports indicate that states that have decriminalized marijuana have higher rates of car accidents. Overall, the number of car accidents involving an individual under the influence of drugs has increased in states where new laws have made marijuana legal for medical or recreational use.

Report Says Drug Related Car Accidents Have Increased

According to a report released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, states that have legalized marijuana have seen an increase in the number of car accidents. By contrast, car accident rates have not increased in states where marijuana remains illegal. While the states that have legalized marijuana haven’t seen a spike in fatal car accidents, the overall number of motor vehicle crashes has gone up.

Several studies have taken a look at how car accident rates have changed since states passed new marijuana legislation.  

One study found that car accident rates have increased by six percent in Washington, Oregon and Colorado. By contrast, car accident rates in neighboring states — where marijuana remains illegal — have not seen similar increases.

In a separate study, which considered the number of accidents reported to police both prior to marijuana legalization and afterward, researchers found that car accident rates jumped by 5.2 percent in states where legislators have made marijuana legal.

Studies Show Marijuana Impairs Cognitive Abilities

Although there aren’t many studies on the impact of marijuana’s effects on drivers, some research has shown that people who drive after consuming marijuana have slower cognitive skills. Additionally, simulators have revealed that people who drive under the influence of marijuana are more likely to weave in and out of traffic compared to those who driver sober.

It’s worth noting that driving while under the influence of marijuana remains a crime in all 50 states. Even in states that have decriminalized marijuana, it’s illegal for a motorist to operate a vehicle while under the influence of a drug that leads to impairment.  

However, one of the challenges of marijuana is that, unlike breathalyzers that measure an individual’s blood alcohol concentration, there are no tests that determine how much marijuana is in a person’s system. Police don’t have a straightforward way to determine how much marijuana an individual has consumed prior to driving.

Whereas the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol is .08 percent blood alcohol concentration, there are no national standards for measuring how much is too much when it comes to marijuana. This makes it very difficult for law enforcement to determine when a motorist is too impaired to drive.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.”

Additionally, studies in Europe, where marijuana laws tend to be much more relaxed than those in the U.S., have found that motorists who drive under the influence of marijuana are about two times more likely to be responsible for a fatal car accident than drivers who aren’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Majority of Americans Support Legalizing Marijuana

According to data gathered by Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans say marijuana should be legal. Among those surveyed, 62 percent said they support legalizing marijuana use. This increase is double the amount who supported legalizing marijuana in 2000, when just 31 percent of people said they believed marijuana should be legal.

Currently, marijuana is legal for recreational use in nine states and the District of Columbia. Marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 31 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. Additionally, several more states are considering legislation that would make medical marijuana legal.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Pennsylvania since 2016, however, marijuana for recreational use remains illegal. In September 2018, lawmakers in Pennsylvania introduced legislation that would make recreational marijuana legal. Even if the bill becomes law, however, the law will continue to prohibit driving under the influence of marijuana.

Proponents of legalizing marijuana in the state say it will generate valuable tax dollars. Additionally, supporters of a recreational use law say that decriminalizing marijuana will reduce the number of arrests and costs associated with marijuana-related offenses.

Proponents also point out that African-Americans in Pennsylvania are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses, even though marijuana use rates are similar across all races in the state. According to one local report, the recreational marijuana bill has gained support among state lawmakers.  

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car wreck caused by a driver under the influence of marijuana, it’s important to speak with an experienced car accident attorney. Call Dallas Car Wreck Lawyer Zachary Herbert today at 214-414-3808 to discuss your legal options.


Dallas Car Wreck Lawyer Zachary Herbert

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