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Legalized Marijuana Linked to More Car Crashes, Studies Show

field of green marijuana ready to harvest
Two recent studies found a link between legalized marijuana and an increase in car crashes. (Terrence Allison/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Thursday, 18 October 2018 01:29 PM

Legalized marijuana is linked to car crashes in research released Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute, which found that four states that have legalized marijuana use saw 6 percent more highway crashes than neighboring states.

An HLDI study examined the frequency of collision claims in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, where recreational use of marijuana is legal, and compared it with control states of Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming, finding a 6 percent increase.

Meanwhile, an IIHS study compared police-reported crashes in Colorado, Oregon and Washington before and after retail sales of marijuana began, finding a 5.2 percent increase compared with neighboring states.

The studies don’t prove that marijuana is a direct cause of crashes, NBC News noted.

"It's certainly early in the game," David Harkey, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute, told NBC News. "We're seeing a trend in the wrong direction."

Medical use of marijuana is legal in 30 states, and nine states and the District of Columbia have OK'd recreational use, NBC News noted.

Attempts to measure the effects of marijuana legalization on highway safety have been inconsistent, NBC News said, adding that this is the second consecutive year when a link to increased car crashes was noted.

Harkey said 14 percent of drivers confirmed to be using marijuana had a child in their vehicle, reflecting concerns that marijuana use isn't as confined as alcohol use, which tends to happen most in evenings and weekends.

More research is necessary to determine whether marijuana is the cause of the increased highway crashes, Consumer Reports noted. But Harkey expressed concern about a lack of understanding about impairment and driving risk.

"Impairment is impairment, whether it’s alcohol or marijuana or prescription drugs," Harkey told Consumer Reports. "Any of those can affect your ability to drive a motor vehicle. You shouldn’t be behind the wheel if you’re impaired by any substance. That's a message that I’m not sure is currently clearly conveyed."

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Legalized marijuana is linked to car crashes in research released Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute.
legalized, marijuana, car, crashes
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2018-29-18
Thursday, 18 October 2018 01:29 PM
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