Researcher are claiming states with marijuana legalization are experiencing higher rates of car crashes, but note more research is needed to understand the influence of pot on traffic accidents.
The Highway Loss Data Institute released a study Thursday showing an increase in collision claims to insurance companies in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, the first three states to implement full legalization. More drivers in these states admit to using marijuana since legalization and drivers involved in crashes are testing positive for pot more frequently, reports the Associated Press.
Collision claims increased by 2.7 percent overall in Colorado, Washington and Oregon compared to nearby states. Researchers based their findings on comparisons with neighboring states, which resulted in wide ranging results. Colorado showed a 21 percent increase in claims when compared to Utah, but only a 3 percent increase when contrasted with Wyoming.
“The study raises more questions than it provides answers and it’s an area that would surely receive more study, and deservedly so,” Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told the Associated Press.
Marijuana legalization is causing concerns across the U.S. over high driving and how to accurately test drivers for the substance. A urine test, the current measure of whether a driver may be impaired by marijuana, will detect THC, however there is currently no scientific consensus on what level of THC constitutes impaired driving.
Traffic fatalities are not surging in states where weed is now legal, and the rate of traffic deaths dropped in most states after legalizing medical marijuana.
Researchers found that, when states legalized medical marijuana, traffic fatalities fell on average by 11 percent. Traffic deaths dropped by 12 percent among 25- to 44-year-olds, the demographic with the largest amount of registered medical marijuana users. Recreational marijuana legalization may result in different outcomes, but most experts agree more research is needed to understand its effect on roadways.
A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility found that traffic deaths involving marijuana increased by 48 percent in Colorado after legalization of recreational marijuana.
Critics caution against reading into these statistics, however, because marijuana stays in a person’s system for weeks after use.