Colorado, Washington, and Oregon were the first states to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. While this is a victory for marijuana enthusiasts, the Highway Loss Data Institute found that car accident claims in these states were higher compared to neighboring states. In addition, crash rates in those states were higher compared to their pre-legalization rates. The rise in crash claims cannot be directly linked to marijuana use, yet the evidence suggests a strong correlation between the two.
Currently, eight states have legalized the use of recreational marijuana, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, as well as Washington, DC. Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana in 2012 and the first retail store opened in 2014. One study found the following increases in accident claims from January 2012 to October 2016:
Colorado: 16 percent
Washington: 6.2 percent
Oregon: 4.5 percent
When comparing crash rates of Colorado, Washington, and Oregon to their neighboring states, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found the following results:
Colorado’s crash rates were 14 percent higher than Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming
Washington’s crash rates were 6.2 percent higher than Montana and Idaho
Oregon’s crash rates were 4.5 percent higher than Idaho, Montana, and Nevada
According to the Senior Vice President of the Highway Loss Data Institute, the evidence points to an increased risk of car accidents in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. There is a growing concern over impaired driving, especially when used in combination with alcohol. Unfortunately, there is not a road side test comparable to the Breathalyzer test to confirm whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana, making it difficult to prove. In addition, insurance companies suggest that other factors, such as distracted driving, road construction, and increased miles driven, have contributed to the rise in crash rates.
A spokesman for the IIHS commented that while drunk driving is still a major concern, there are proven strategies that can be used to reduce the incidence of driving while under the influence of alcohol. There is a lot we do not know about the impact marijuana has on a person’s ability to operate a vehicle and the risks of drugged driving.
Early Evidence Warrants Further Studies
While this is the first analysis of legalized marijuana accident claims, it should serve as a warning for other states that are considering legalizing marijuana. IIHS is in the process of conducting a more comprehensive study in Oregon, comparing legalized marijuana with injury-producing crashes. They expect to have results in 2020. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association indicates that the current research from IIHS should encourage other states to seriously consider the risks of marijuana-impaired driving before making the decision to legalize the drug.
Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Victims of Car Wrecks
If you have been injured in a car accident involving another driver who was under the influence of marijuana, it is in your best interest to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will work tirelessly to ensure that the negligent party is held responsible for their actions and that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, do not hesitate to call one of our experienced car accident lawyers at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent car accident victims in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.