Study links vehicle crashes to marijuana in states where pot is legal

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"Three years after recreational marijuana legalization, changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization".

It should be noted that the study is not the final word on legal marijuana and its relation to unsafe driving.

The study, published Thursday by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), says the frequency of automobile collision insurance claims has increased by 3 percent in states where marijuana is legal - Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Colorado experienced a 14 percent increase in collision claims compared with nearby Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. But based on the data the HLDI crunched, perhaps it's best if drivers in Colorado, Washington and OR started walking and biking a bit more. Colorado legalized marijuana in 2014.

"The study raises more questions than it provides answers and it's an area that would surely receive more study, and deservedly so", Tvert said.

"The states that made marijuana legal appear to have seen some increases in collision claims, but there is no evidence that marijuana contributed to those increases".

The results are in line with those of a study by researchers at Columbia University in NY that was published earlier this year. Control states included Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, plus Colorado, Oregon and Washington prior to legalization of recreational use.

"The increased availability of marijuana may be reducing alcohol use in some states", said Santaella-Tenorio.

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"One of the characteristics of a driver who's on marijuana is they tend to drive more slowly", Griffin said.

Kenton Brine, President of the NW Insurance Council, said the results in the 3 states with legal pot were surprisingly higher. Washington recorded a 6 percent higher rate than Montana and Idaho in terms of collision claims.

"The problem here is that it's a pretty new experience".

It bears mentioning that this only looks at crashes, not injuries or fatalities.

It is important to point out that this is not a criticism of medical marijuana - this is a completely separate issue. Researchers compared year-over-year changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates - on a basis of per-billion vehicle miles traveled - to rates in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. By now, eight states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational cannabis for adults.

While the numbers are a safety concern, it may also have an impact on drivers' wallets in those states.

Another study released previous year by AAA's safety foundation stated that legal THC limits established by states with legal marijuana have no scientific basis, and could result in innocent drivers being convicted while guilty drivers are released. According to NBC News, that coincides with when both states legalized marijuana.