Is rise in wrong-way drivers linked to marijuana? Roadshow – The Mercury News

Q: Regarding the increase in wrong-way drivers: Is there any correlation between wrong-way drivers and the increased use of marijuana due to legalization? If there is a correlation, then one would expect the increase to be greatest in states that have legalized marijuana.

Ward Wildanger, Iowa City, Ia.

A: New studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and by the Highway Loss Data show that crash rates increased after the legalization of marijuana in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

There was a 6 percent increase in injury crashes and a 4 percent increase in fatal crashes compared with states where recreational marijuana use was illegal.

But the studies have not determined that marijuana use alone is behind the increase. The latest one, which used data collected from injured drivers in Denver, Portland and Sacramento, showed no increased crash risk for drivers using marijuana but not drinking.  That is consistent with a 2015 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that found that a positive test for marijuana was not associated with increased risk of being involved in a crash.

Legalization may be encouraging more people to both drink and use marijuana.

Tests have shown that drivers who are high on marijuana react more slowly, find it harder to pay attention, have more difficulty maintaining their car’s position and make more errors when something goes wrong than they do when they’re not high. But such tests have also shown that marijuana-impaired drivers are likely to drive at slower speeds, make fewer attempts to overtake other drivers, and keep more distance between their vehicle and the one ahead of them.

Q: Has anyone looked at this scenario: heavy two-way traffic on two lanes (think Pacheco Pass in the early morning). A car veers into oncoming busy but moving traffic.

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