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Legal Weed Has Been Linked to an Increase in Car Crashes

This is a chilling link, but it's not necessarily definitive.


Recent reports have unearthed what could prove to be a chilling link between highway automobile accidents and the recreational use of marijuana. Two new studies have found that in at least four of the states where recreational cannabis use is legalized, the rate of highway crashes have increased between five and six percent.

The studies both sampled data from police reports as well as insurance claims to draw their conclusions. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was thorough in their assessment of the data and not only compared the rates of highway crashes between states but also accounted for differences in weather and economy.

In light of this fact, what is perhaps the most troubling aspect of the findings is the manner in which children are involved. Around 14 percent of the motorists who were found to be under the influence of cannabis behind the wheel also had a child in the car. This would be an easier pill to swallow if the conclusions about how cannabis use impacts driving were more conclusive.

“Many studies, using a variety of methods, have attempted to estimate the risk of driving after use of marijuana,” an NHTSA report to Congress read. “While useful in identifying how marijuana affects the performance of driving tasks, experimental and observational studies do not lend themselves to predicting real-world crash risk.”

It’s only fair to point out that these studies aren’t saying that there is a causality. What the studies are pointing to is that the increase in highway accidents in places where cannabis is legalized for recreational use should be cause for some alarm. Moreover, there is far from a foolproof way to discern whether a motorist is under the influence of cannabis while they’re behind the wheel of a car. Beyond the fact that on the fly cannabis tests are questionable, cannabis is used for a myriad of different things. So understanding the exact why of it all is challenging. While many people use it recreationally, there is a large contingent of people using it for medical reasons.