More studies are now showing that car accident rates are increasing when states legalize the recreational and retail sales of marijuana. According to new studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), crash rates spiked with the legalization of recreational marijuana in states such as California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
However, the preliminary results of a separate IIHS study of injured drivers who visited emergency rooms in California, Colorado, and Oregon showed that drivers who used marijuana alone were no more likely to be involved in crashes than drivers who hadn’t used the drug. This finding is consistent with a 2015 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which found that a positive test for marijuana was not associated with an increased risk of being involved in a police-reported crash.
What Studies Show
Over one-third of U.S. states have legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. Recent national polls indicate that about 68% of American adults favor legalization. Consumption of marijuana also appears to be expanding rapidly, with self-reports of past-month marijuana use doubling from 6 to 12% among those surveyed between 2008 and 2019.
The concern about road safety in relation to marijuana legalization is genuine, and it’s increasing. Driver simulator tests have shown that those under the influence of marijuana react more slowly, have trouble paying attention and maintaining lanes, and make errors when something goes wrong. But such tests have also shown that marijuana-impaired drivers are likely to drive at slower speeds, make fewer attempts to overtake, and maintain more distance between their vehicle and the vehicle ahead of them.
The most recent study from IIHS shows that injury and fatal crash rates in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington increased in the months after marijuana legalization in each state. These states saw a 6% increase in injury crash rates and a 4% rise in fatal crashes. Insurance records show a similar increase in claims under collision coverage, which pays for damage to an at-fault, insured driver’s own vehicle.
Our California car accident attorneys are extremely concerned about this increase in crash rates. It is still important to remember that driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is illegal under California Vehicle Code 20001 (a). While marijuana for recreational use is legal in California, driving under the influence of marijuana is still very much illegal. If you cause an accident and injury/kill someone while under the influence of marijuana, you can face criminal charges and penalties. Impaired drivers can also be held financially liable for the injuries, damages, and losses they cause.