States with Legal Cannabis Have a Higher Rate of Car Accidents

According to a new study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), car crashes have increased in some states with legal recreational cannabis.

An analysis of insurance claims in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington indicates that accidents have increased almost six percent compared to neighboring states where recreational cannabis is prohibited. A separate study by the IIHS saw a five percent increase in the rate of crashes per million vehicle registrations reported to the police in Colorado, Washington and Oregon compared to neighboring states that haven’t legalized cannabis.

The studies don’t necessarily prove that cannabis use is the cause of the increase in accidents, but the analyses serve as an indicator that cannabis plays a role in road safety. David Harkey, president of the IIHS and the Highway Loss Data Institute mentioned that he expects more states to legalize cannabis and that the studies were meant to be proactive. “If you’re considering this in your state, if you’re a legislator, you need to pay attention to what may be on the horizon in terms of road safety,” Harkey said.

There are few standards or tests for cannabis-impaired drivers like there is for alcohol, and studies have shown the tests for alcohol are only moderately successful in determining if someone us under the influence of cannabis. Recently, a California company created the first cannabis breath analysis test that has the potential to help police test impaired drivers to see if they are under the influence of cannabis.

While there has been an increase in traffic accidents, another report found traffic deaths decreased in Nevada’s first year of recreational cannabis, however, the number of DUI arrests resulting solely from a positive test for cannabis has increased in the state.

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