More evidence is emerging that crash rates go up when states legalize recreational use and retail sales of marijuana. This should be no surprise.
A recent webinar that I attended covered the most recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute research showing that crash rates go up in states that legalize recreational use and retail sales of marijuana. The research also indicates that marijuana is adding to the substantial ongoing problem of alcohol impairment due to the combined use of both substances.
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. 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 police-reported crash.
More than a third of U.S. states have legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. The hefty tax revenues those states are earning have others exploring similar legislation, and recent polls indicate that 68% of American adults favor legalization, according to the IIHS.
That’s a potential concern for those who care about road safety. Driving simulator 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 in the lane and make more errors when something goes wrong than they do when they’re sober. But such tests have also shown marijuana-impaired drivers are likely to drive at slower speeds, make fewer attempts to overtake and keep more distance from the