As one of the first states in the U.S. to legalize marijuana use, Colorado has become a focal point of scrutiny. All across the country, authorities want to know if legalization has caused societal effects, such as increased auto accidents. Now, as analysts begin to release the data gathered on marijuana use and auto accidents, one detail is starting to stand out. Nobody seems to have clear answers.
Are Auto Accident Increases Being Caused by Marijuana Legalization?
A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) claims that states that have legalized marijuana have 3 percent more crashes. This data is based off a survey of insurance collision claims in three states that legalized and three nearby states that have not. Researchers say the number is small but significant, however, critics claim the study’s numbers prove little.
It is unclear whether the study made a distinction between collision claims involving marijuana, or simply compared all collision claims in legalized states versus states where there has been no legalization. Another study further muddies the waters on this issue.
Are There Other Marijuana Accident Studies?
The American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) found that vehicle crash fatalities in Colorado and Washington did not go up due to marijuana legalization. The conclusions drawn in this study compared crash fatality data from states that had legalized marijuana to states that were similar in roadway composition, population and traffic tendencies.
The draw back to this study is that it concentrates simply on fatalities and not crashes. This means that both studies could be correct, meaning that marijuana causes more non-fatal crashes, but even this argument is flawed. Right now, most studies of this nature are correlative, not drawing a direct link to marijuana use, but instead they merely observe crash statistics in places where marijuana use is legal. This doesn’t prove that the cause of these crashes is marijuana use.
Right now, testing people involved in crashes is an uncertain science. Due to the way THC is metabolized, it is hard to tell when a person smoked marijuana or if the person is still under the drug’s effects. That means we may yet still be far away from learning just how marijuana affects traffic collisions. However, you can be sure that the Colorado motor vehicle accident lawyers at Metier Law Firm will continue to monitor the latest data, so you can be informed and better protected.