Study links legalized pot with increase in auto crash claims

Henrietta Brewer
June 23, 2017

So far, eight states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing recreational pot sales, according to NORML, a group advocating for the reform of marijuana laws.

Since the three states legalized recreational marijuana, Colorado had a 14 percent increase of collision claims compared to Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming, Washington had a 6.2 percent increase compared to Montana and Idaho, while OR had a 4.5 percent increase compared to Idaho, Montana and Nevada.

Critics caution against reading into these statistics, however, because marijuana stays in a person's system for weeks after use.

The study revealed more drivers involved in crashes are admitting to using marijuana.


MA started allowing recreational marijuana use in the state at the beginning of the year. Drivers file these claims for damage to their vehicle in a crash with an object or with another vehicle, generally when the driver is at fault, the HLDI said.

The analysis is the institute's first report on how marijuana legalization since 2014 has affected crashes reported to insurers.

This number came from comparing the three weed-friendly states with the control group. In Oregon, that number is 4.5 percent, and in Colorado there's been a 14 percent increase.

"The combined effect for the three states was smaller but still significant at 3 percent", Mr. Moore said.


A study released a year ago by AAA's safety foundation found legal THC limits established by states with legal marijuana have no scientific basis and can result in innocent drivers being convicted, and guilty drivers being released. "The single-state analyses show how the effect differs by state".

The HLDI is affiliated with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research organization that usually focuses on figuring out which cars are safest.

In addition to Colorado, Oregon and Washington, five other states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for all uses, and 21 states have comprehensive medical marijuana programs as of June. Those results are expected in 2020. Marijuana still is an illegal controlled substance under federal law.

A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility found that traffic deaths involving marijuana increased by 48 percent in Colorado after legalization of recreational marijuana.


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