Is the legalization of marijuana increasing car accidents?

You might think that the legalization of recreational marijuana would increase the number of car accidents and auto fatalities in the United States. After all, with marijuana more readily available, wouldn't people be more likely to be driving while intoxicated? Two recent studies seem to disagree on this matter.

One study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that from January 2012 to October 2016, collisions in states with legalized marijuana had increased by 3 percent more than what was expected. Another study from the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), however, disagrees. That study did not find any increase in car accident fatalities in Washington or Colorado during the first three years following legalization of recreational marijuana.

These two studies, it should be emphasized, are looking at two different data points. One is looking at vehicle collisions, and the other is looking at vehicle fatalities. Perhaps, then, legalized recreational marijuana leads to more minor collisions, but these additional collisions do not involve any fatalities. This information may be heartening, if it's true, because it means that new laws may not be endangering the public.

At the end of the day, if a Washington resident gets hurt by an intoxicated driver -- regardless if the driver is inebriated by marijuana or alcohol -- the injured person may be able to pursue personal injury claims in civil court to seek financial compensation. If successfully navigated, such a claim could bring victims money to pay for medical care, time spent unable to work, pain and suffering, loss of consortium and other damages.

Source: Washington Post, "What marijuana legalization did to car accident rates," Christopher Ingraham, June 26, 2017

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