Since the legalization of marijuana movement began in the U.S., health and safety experts have been trying to measure the potential impact it would have on traffic accidents. Without ample past reliable data to go off, much of the results so far have been inconsistent. However, according to a new set of studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute, an increase of up to 6 percent in the number of highway crashes has been found in four states where the recreational use of marijuana is legalized. As Providence personal injury lawyers, Tapalian Law feels any uptick in car crashes is reason to sit up and take notice. Our car accident lawyers see clients everyday who suffer from serious injuries incurred in an auto accident. While the latest reports cannot yet prove a direct risk caused by the use of marijuana among vehicle operators, there is a rising trend in these states and any upsurge in car crashes is cause for attention. At this time it is a challenge to accurately test drivers to determine if they are under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Without this hard proof, much more research needs to be done to explore marijuana use and its relationship to vehicle crashes. After this Tuesday’s election, 10 states and Washington D.C. have now legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over the age of 21. Rhode Island has not legalized marijuana for recreational use. Medical marijuana is legalized in 33 states, including Rhode Island.
Results of IIHS Study Linking Legalized Marijuana to Car Crashes
The IIHS studies used police reports and insurance claims to determine auto crashes rose between 5.2% and 6% in states with legalized recreational marijuana, in comparison to neighboring states where marijuana use is illegal. Highway crash data from surrounding states was also compared in an attempt to control for factors like weather and economy. One disturbing find from the study is that while most drivers under the influence of alcohol are driving alone or with other adults, approximately 14% of those confirmed to be using pot had a child in the car. As Providence car accident injury lawyers, this find is very troubling. The IIHS feels this reflects a variance between marijuana and alcohol use and it appears that marijuana use isn’t reserved for evenings and other occasions when adults are more likely to consume alcohol. Experts are uncertain whether this reflects an increase in the use of recreational pot or medical marijuana for pain treatment. The IIHS is clear however, that there is a “correlation”, a connection, between the rise in crashes once pot became legal, however it is not the same as “causation”, meaning other variables could be involved. One of the difficulties with this study, as with similar reports, is the accuracy in measuring how marijuana use impacts car crashes because law enforcement has a difficult challenge due to the way marijuana works in the body.