Marijuana Legalization Doesn't Negatively Impact Traffic Fatality Rates

In states such as Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, the link between legalized marijuana and higher rates of auto accidents reveal a 3 percent increase in collision frequencies, researchers from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found. "We see strong evidence of an increase crash risk in states that have approved recreational marijuana sales".

More cases of automobile crashes have been reported among states where marijuana has been legalized, according to a first-of-a-kind study conducted by an insurance institute.

Researchers say the issue needs to be studied more closely, especially in several other states like California, Massachusetts and Nevada that recently passed legislation to legalize recreational pot. It would also consist of members from marijuana advocacy groups, state educators, and state health officials.

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Trade group Cannabis Business Alliance didn't mince words in its criticism of the Highway Loss Data Institute study, claiming that it was "just another attempt to incite reefer madness".

Matt Moore, senior vice president of the non-profit company behind the study, says the research is necessary, as states must have all the facts before deciding to open the marijuana floodgates. Those results are expected in 2020.

"We also hope that drivers think about their state of mind before they get behind the wheel", said Moore.

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After retail marijuana sales began in Colorado, the increase in collision claim frequency was 14 percent higher than in nearby Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.

"We found no significant association between recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado and subsequent changes in motor vehicle fatality rates in the first three years after recreational marijuana legalization", the study concludes. The group, known for publishing insurance loss statistics, says it has found a link between legalized pot and a surge in vehicle accidents. Further, measuring THC levels in the blood is not as easy a measure of impairment as blood-alcohol level is, since the psychoactive compound in marijuana is stored in the body's fat cells and can show up in the blood long after the effect has worn off.

This logic is something to consider when states consider or adopt legal marijuana laws. Based on this study, it's very hard to tell whether or not legalization has genuinely lead to more accidents. Distracted driving through texting and cell phone use, road construction, and more people behind the wheel are likely contributing to the higher number.

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The numbers vary by state, but in Washington, there's been a six percent increase compared to other western states.

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