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How marijuana legalization may be affecting car accident rates

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2020 | Uncategorized |

Many people enjoy using marijuana in a recreational sense. Though it is illegal in many places, advocates say that you can consume it in a way that is safe and pleasurable, much like the way adults legally consume alcoholic beverages. Others have a concern that marijuana may pose similar dangers, particularly when motorists use it before driving.

Colorado legalized the use of recreational marijuana several years ago. Whether you agree with this measure or not, recent statistics show a concerning trend with cannabis use. The rate of car accidents increased significantly after legalization. Some believe this is reason enough to revoke that right, while others stress that doing so would be an overreaction. Whatever side of this debate you fall on, safety should be everyone’s priority, starting with understanding exactly what’s going on.

How big was the increase?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released their findings of the study. Its report found that car accidents in Colorado and two other states with legal cannabis went up by 5.2% in the four years since Colorado first passed legalization. This was in comparison to other nearby states that haven’t legalized recreational marijuana.

Officials say that part of the problem is that there is no scientific standard to measure marijuana impairment the way there is with alcohol. Similarly, there isn’t an effective test that law enforcement can use to detect it, the way that they often use Breathalyzers for alcohol. Though Colorado has limits for the amount of THC in the bloodstream legally allowed for driving, experts warn that current tests may not accurately indicate impairment. The conclusion many experts draw is that there is not as much incentive to drive sober.

What about fatal car accidents?

The numbers of fatal car accidents don’t seem to be rising the same way as overall car crashes. Officials say this may be because people who drive while high tend to do so at reduced speeds. Still, these same drivers tend to brake much more slowly and aren’t able to maintain their lanes, so they still pose significant danger to other motorists or pedestrians who encounter them. 

In fact, statistics show that the rate of fatal car accidents due to marijuana impairment has dropped. Only 8% of fatal crashes in 2017 were due to marijuana use, 4% lower than the same rate the year before. However, other states report higher rates of fatal crashes.

If you were in a crash with an impaired driver

No matter what the statistics may say, if you or someone you care about received an injury in a car crash with a driver who was high, you deserve to hold that person accountable. Car accidents are unfortunate no matter the circumstances, but they should never happen for reasons that are entirely preventable. A personal injury attorney can explain all of your available options to seek justice.

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