Studies link marijuana to auto crashes

Cannabis legalization could result in more car crashes: reports

Vehicle crashes are up in states that have legalized marijuana, according to two new studies released Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute.

Researchers say states considering legalization should consider the potential impact on highway safety.

IIHS and HLDI are set to present two studies Thursday on collision crashes in states where marijuana is legal at the Combating Alcohol- and Drug-Impaired Driving summit at IIHS' Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, Va.

Harkey said the second study analyzed crash reports from police in legalized marijuana states and found about a 5 percent increase in crash reports when compared with neighboring states that haven't legalized marijuana.

A separate 2017 study from the American Journal of Public Health found that legalized recreational marijuana did not have a significant increase on the number of fatality crashes, however. Sales began in October 2015 in OR and in July 2017 in Nevada. These studies reportedly controlled for differences in demographics, unemployment and weather in each state. "Law enforcement needs additional tools and advanced training to detect impaired drivers before they crash, regardless of the impairing drug they're using".

A positive test for Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, doesn't necessarily mean the driver was impaired at the time of the crash.

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The researchers note that the link between marijuana and vehicle crashes is not as clear as the link between alcohol and auto accidents.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in its report on the fatal accident in Texas - where recreational use is illegal - that police across the country need better training and better tools to detect whether a driver is under the influence of drugs.

"The new IIHS-HLDI research on marijuana and crashes indicates that legalizing marijuana for all uses is having a negative impact on the safety of our roads", IIHS-HLDI President David Harkey said about the study's results.

Unlike alcohol the amount of weed in a person's system doesn't consistently correlate to their impairment.

While correlation does not equal causation, the study is worth keeping in mind as more states move to decriminalize and regulate the sale of recreational pot, which remains very much illegal at the federal level.

Recreational use isn't allowed in Arizona, but in 2010 voters approved a proposition making marijuana legal for patients with medical cards.

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