A pair of studies were released last month that comes to seemingly opposite conclusions about whether an increase in the use of marijuana is causing a higher number of car accidents across the US.
The first study, which was done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, did an analysis of insurance claims for vehicle accidents from January 2012 until October 2016. The researchers compared accident claims in states that had recently legalized marijuana – Colorado, Washington, and Oregon – with claims in neighboring states that had not legalized it.
The IIHS found that collision claims in states that had legalized the drug were 3% higher than they would have thought if marijuana had not been legalized. Researchers in the IIHS study found this was a small but significant difference.
The IIHS stated after it released the study that their analysis showed that the first three states to legalize marijuana have seen more car accidents.
But another study sees things quite differently. A study done by the American Journal of Public Health found there was no increase in vehicle accident fatalities in Colorado and Washington after the drug was legalized. The study analyzed federal data on fatal vehicle accidents from 2009 to 2015.
So, are the studies contradicting each other? Not necessarily. The two studies in question were measuring different things. The IIHS study looked at claims for motor vehicle crashes, while the AJPH study focused on fatal crashes. It may be possible that legalization could cause a small increase in non-fatal car accidents.
Federal research suggests that smoking pot before driving does lead to a higher chance of a crash, but it does not impair the driver as much as alcohol. Still, there is no question that smoking marijuana before driving is a bad idea, as it can lead to impaired judgment, reflexes, and arrest for driving under the influence.
The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration recently published the results of a study that looked at the comparative risk of drunk and drugged driving over a 20 month period in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Researchers gathered information from 3,000 drivers involved in crashes and more than 6,000 crash-free drivers.
The survey found that almost one in four drivers tested positive for a drug that could affect their ability to drive. The study also found that marijuana users are more likely to be in car accidents. As personal injury attorneys, we know that THC in marijuana affects parts of the brain that controls balance, coordination, balance, and judgment.
Our personal injury attorneys do not want anyone who is under the influence of marijuana to be driving. People under the influence of drugs or alcohol cause very serious car accidents with personal injury and death, such as this $1 million Virginia Beach car accident settlement we handled a few years ago.