States That Legalized Marijuana See Increase in Car Crashes



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Brooks Schuelke, Esq.
Schuelke Law PLLC

Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) November 14, 2018 – Marijuana is beginning to become legalized in many U.S. states and it is now legal all across Canada. The thought of high drivers is frightening given their reduced ability to react quickly. In fact, there is emerging proof that increased marijuana usage is causing deadly traffic accidents.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) vehicular crashes are on the rise in states that have legalized marijuana, such as Washington State, Nevada, Colorado and Oregon. Recreational weed is also legal in Vermont, California, Massachusetts, Alaska and Maine, and 22 other states have made the drug legal for medical purposes.

David Harkey, IIHS president, says, “With marijuana impairment, we’re just now starting to understand what we don’t know.” The IIHS report showed a rise of about six percent in car crashes in legal marijuana states compared to states where it is illegal. States that have legalized marijuana for recreational use are experiencing a higher crash risk. With numerous other states contemplating referendums or legislation to expand the marijuana’s legal use, the risk of drug-impaired drivers becomes even higher.

The IIHS report followed on the heels of pointed warnings from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) which took the step of making recommendations to battle drug-impaired drivers. Battling drug-impaired drivers may become even tougher as, many marijuana users often mix different drugs or mix alcohol with weed, making it difficult to isolate a specific drugs’ causal effect in a crash.

Just last year a drug-impaired driver killed 13 people in Texas. A pickup truck driver, high on marijuana mixed with anti-anxiety medications, ran head-on into a church bus, causing that collision. According to the NTSB, the presence of drugs was detected in 30 percent of deceased drivers in 2006, and by 2015 that number rose to 45 percent. Additionally, in random roadside testing, over 22 percent of drivers showed evidence of drug use.

“Right now, the most common combination seen after an accident is alcohol and marijuana,” said Brooks Schuelke, an Austin auto accident attorney. “And while this is useful information, there is still not enough data that deals with the drugs users actually get at retail marijuana dispensaries versus a sample used to conduct a test.”

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