IIHS Study Suggests Link Between Recreational Marijuana Use And Increase In Crashes

Sarah Tew  CNET

Sarah Tew CNET

It found that the three states combined saw a 5.2 percent increase in the rate of crashes per million vehicle registrations, compared with the rate in neighboring states that didn't legalize marijuana.

In those four states since recreational marijuana was legalized the frequency of collision claims reported to insurance companies rose six per cent from 2012 - when Colorado and Washington first legalized recreational marijuana - to July 2017.

Collisions are up by about 6 percent in states that have legalized recreational marijuana use, according to new research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and its partner, the Highway Data Loss Institute.

Crashes are up 6 percent in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Nevada, a joint study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute shows.

Although marijuana's role in crashes is not as clear as the link between alcohol impairment and crashes, Harkey said he thinks the public needs to be informed about potential collisions, especially as more states discuss legalization. In Recreational weed went on the market in OR in October 2015, and in Nevada in July 2017.

It also encouraged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to come up with a system of best practices and model specifications for oral fluid drug screening devices that police can use when they pull someone over.

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Researchers say impairment by alcohol has always been an issue, but there's growing concern when it comes to prescription drugs and marijuana.

A positive test for THC [the psychoactive component of marijuana] may not necessarily mean the driver was impaired at the time of the crash.

There's bad news today for states that legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

"It's very challenging - we know very well how to measure blood alcohol concentrations, we know how to take those numbers and turn them into laws, such as the.08 laws that we have for legal limits with regards to alcohol, we're not at the same level of knowledge with respect to marijuana", Harkey said. Many states don't include consistent information on driver drug use in crash reports, and policies and procedures for drug testing are inconsistent.

"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 in a news release".

Additionally, when drivers are tested, other drugs are often found in combination with alcohol, making it hard to parse out the effects.

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