Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Results in Increased Crashes
In an analysis by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Oregon and Washington has resulted in 3% higher overall collision claim frequency than would have been expected without the legalization. This is the first time HLDI has done a report on how the legalization of the drug has affected crashes reported to insurers.
It is important to include that there is evidence from simulator and on-road studies that marijuana can degrade some aspects of driving performance, but there is no definitive connection between marijuana use and real-world crashes. Now, more drivers are admitting to using marijuana, especially those in crashes, but not all studies agree that there is an actual link.
In HLDI’s analysis, neighboring states were used as controls to look at collision claims experience in Colorado, Oregon and Washington before and after law changes. The control states were: Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, plus the “legal-weed” states before they the dug was actually legalized. Here are the control states’ rules on marijuana:
- Nevada and Montana- permitted medical-use
- Wyoming and Utah- only limited use for medical purposes
- Idaho- No use of marijuana allowed
- Oregon and Washington legalized medical marijuana in 1998, and Colorado authorized it in 2000
The data collected spans collision claims filed between January 2012 and October 2016. Matt Moore the senior VP of HLDI said, “The combined-state analysis shows that the first three states to legalize recreational marijuana have experienced more crashes, the individual state analyses suggest that the size of the effect varies by state.”
The state with the worst increase is Colorado in claim frequency compared with it’s control states.
In the coming years HLDI will be able to conduct more research on this topic to sharpen it’s focus and analyze real-world crashes. Currently, the IIHS has begun a large-scale case-control study in Oregon to assess how legalized marijuana use may be changing the risk of crashes with injuries. Some results are expected in 2020.
David Zuby, executive vice president and chief research officer of the IIHS says, “HLDI’s findings on the early experience of Colorado, Oregon and Washington should give other states eyeing legalization pause.”
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