Study links legalized pot with increase in car crash claims

Crash claims up 2.7 percent in first states to legalize pot

The study found that states with legal marijuana had combined auto crash rates three percent higher than the states where the devil's lettuce was still illegal for recreational use.

Traffic searches by highway patrols in Colorado and Washington dropped by almost half after those states legalized marijuana in 2012, concluded a report by Stanford's Open Policing project, which analyzes police data in an effort to show patterns of police behavior with the public.

Both researchers said there is a lot of speculation about an apparent paradox regarding marijuana laws: Traffic fatalities don't seem to increase in states after the passage of laws allowing recreational or medical marijuana use, even though the drug has been shown to impair driving.

Basically, it impacted drivers differently, but the takeaway was predictable: The more marijuana they smoked, the worse their driving became. Insurance industry groups have been closely monitoring accident claims since 2013.

"We know there are about 80-thousand consumers a month using marijuana, we know that young people find it incredibly easy to get".

Moore of the Highway Loss Data Institute said they hope the study's findings will be considered by lawmakers and regulators in states where marijuana legalization is under consideration or recently enacted.


Colorado experienced a 14 percent increase in collision claims compared with nearby Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. Following the 2012 passage of recreational marijuana legalization Amendment 64, the state increased funding to train officers on implementing new roadside tests and procedures.

In recent years, some states that legalized pot, such as Colorado, have launched extensive advertising campaigns warning of the dangers marijuana poses to kids and teenagers, and also the risks of driving while high. That study looked US traffic fatalities between 1985 and 2014 in states that had passed laws approving medical marijuana. Northampton police Captain John Cartledge told 22News, "Certainly it's much harder to test for marijuana or any other types of drugs without some sort of chemical test, especially roadside".

While more drivers have admitted to using marijuana, previous studies about its impact on driving performance have been inconclusive, the institute said.

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Fatal accident rates have fallen significantly over the past two decades - during the same time that a majority of U.S. states have legalized marijuana for either medical or social use.

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