STUDY: U.S. Not Doing Enough To Stop Stoned Driving (or to Boost Transit) – Streetsblog San Francisco

Car crash rates increased after the legalization of marijuana in Western states, a pair of new studies finds — but increasing access to transit may be the only sure-fire way to rein in stoned driving, especially without increasing police harassment of people of color.

In a set of linked studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute, researchers found that new marijuana legalization policies in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington were correlated with a 6-percent increase in injury-causing car crash rates in the months that followed.

That might not seem like huge jump — again, we’re talking car crash rate, not sheer crashes — but the team behind the study says America simply can’t afford to add to its impaired driving death totals, especially as policymakers continue to fail to curb the drunk driving epidemic.

“America has been stuck at about 10,000 [alcohol-related] deaths per year for a decade, and we haven’t been able to fix it,” said David Harkey, president of the Institute. “The last thing we want to do is have new substances introduced to the population in a way that that makes those numbers any worse.”

But Harkey was careful to note that addressing stoned driving won’t be as simple as restricting access to cannabis — because stoned driving, on its own, may not even be the real problem.

Image: NHTSA Crash Stats

In the second study in the series, IIHS looked at emergency room data in three states that had recently legalized weed, and found that drivers who used marijuana alone “were no more likely to be involved in crashes than drivers who hadn’t used the drug” — but drivers who had marijuana and alcohol in their systems were five times more likely to have been put in the hospital by

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