Recent Reports Show a Connection Between Increased Auto Accidents and Marijuana Usage
The impact of marijuana on public safety is a commonly discussed topic in Colorado and other states that have legalized its recreational use. Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana six years ago with retail sales starting in 2014. Shortly after in 2015, Oregon began selling pot, followed by Nevada. Since then, there has been an ongoing debate about road safety in the case of drivers who consume marijuana. Those who have been voicing concern are pointing to a recent study that shows their fears are warranted.
States with Legalized Marijuana Have More Accidents
Both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) released studies focusing on the use of cannabis in correlation to vehicle crashes. According to the HLDI research, states that allow the recreational use of pot have seen crashes increase, specifically, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, when compared to bordering states that have not legalized pot use; statistics show as much as a 6 percent increase in the number of vehicle crashes.
Researchers stated that the analysis was based on vehicle collision data collected between January 2012 and October 2017. In addition to collision data, IIHS researchers did their own review; instead of using collision data, the agency reviewed police reports during a four-year period. Nevada was not included in the IIHS study, but research still showed a 5.2 percent increase in auto accidents in the remaining three states.
In addition to IIHS and HLDI, the American Automobile Association Foundation (AAA) has investigated the issues of marijuana usage and road safety. AAA turned its attention to the state of Washington and what they found was even more disturbing. According to the AAA research, fatal crashes between 2013 and 2014 nearly doubled, from eight to 17 percent, when they involved drivers who had recently used pot.
In Colorado, there continues to be a somewhat heated debate on the issue as those on both sides of the debate make their voices heard. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, there’s one statistic that can’t be overlooked and it came after an intense review of state records by a Denver media outlet, which noted that since 2013, the number of drivers killed in Colorado car accidents who tested positive for marijuana has risen sharply according.
Now that pot is being legalized in more and more states, safety officials all agree that there’s no ‘putting the genie back in the bottle.’ In other words, it’s not a question of moving forward as more and more states legalize cannabis, but how to do so in a way that keeps those on the road safe.
How exactly does marijuana affect driving ability?
Those who study the effects of both alcohol and drugs on one’s ability to drive have noted that both substances have an impact on driving ability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both drugs and alcohol interfere with the functionality of the brain. Specifically, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis, affects movement, balance, coordination, and judgment, among other things. Because of that, someone driving high may have a slower reaction time, suffer from an inability to make quick decisions, and have a distorted perception of the road.
Health officials say the best way to approach pot use is to use the same guidelines as you would if you were to go out drinking. Have a designated driver who refrains from using or eating anything infused with marijuana, make sure those you are with, if they consumed pot, are not driving either, and if no one in your group has abstained from pot use, call for a ride home. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to recreational pot use. Do not partake and drive.