Two new studies came out recently that looked at whether using marijuana causes car accidents. The studies are likely to be extremely helpful for states that are considering legalizing recreational or even medicinal marijuana. Unfortunately, the studies came to seemingly contradictory conclusions, raising doubts on the impact of smoking pot before driving.
One Study Finds Small Increase in Crash Claims Where Pot is Legal
The first study, conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and released on June 22, 2017, compared insurance claims made for car accidents in states that have legalized recreational marijuana to those states where it is still illegal. The study found that the number of insurance claims for car accidents in states with legalized weed were 3% higher than in other states. According to the IIHS, this increase was “small but significant.”
Second Study Finds No Increase in Fatal Crashes
However, a second study on the subject was published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) later that same day. This second study examined the differences in car accident fatality rates in Washington and Colorado – where marijuana is legal for recreational use – and compared it to other states where the drug is still illegal. According to the AJPH, the fatality rates were similar.
Making Sense of the Seemingly Contradictory Results
While the two studies seem to come to contradictory results, it’s important to note that they did not actually examine the same issue. The IIHS study looked at the number of insurance claims, while the AJPH study only focused on fatal crashes. That the number of claims went up slightly in states where marijuana is legal while the number of fatalities stayed the same suggests that there were more car crashes, but fewer serious ones that can lead to fatal injuries. This also fits with the common sense knowledge that marijuana relaxes drivers. If it made them drive more slowly, it would make sense that there would be more minor car accidents.
Additionally, the methodology of the two studies was slightly different. Both studies compared states with legalized marijuana to other states. The other states that they chose, however, were selected for different reasons in the two studies: The IIHS study compared Washington and Colorado to their neighboring states, while the AJPH compared them to states with similar population, economic, and traffic situations.
Finally, these results might be getting skewed by the fact that car accident deaths throughout the U.S. have been on the rise in shocking numbers. Worse, these increases are not perfectly uniform between different states, making it more difficult to compare the car accident numbers between multiple areas in the country.
St. Joseph Car Accident Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
Studies like these might make it seem like they are doing more to create confusion than answer questions. However, the fact that the problem of smoking and driving is even being studied, at all, is a step in the right direction.
If you have been involved in a car accident that was caused by a driver who was high on marijuana, you need legal representation. Reach out to the personal injury attorneys at the Smith Law Office by calling us at (816) 875-9373 or by contacting us online.