Crash claims up 2.7 percent in first states to legalize pot

Adjust Comment Print

"It was a very impassioned argument, we just wanted to see if that were true", says Aydelotte, who adds that it is very uncommon to see somebody who has nothing but marijuana in their system and crashes their auto.

Less than 24 hours after Vermont lawmakers put the legalization of marijuana on the back-burner, a new report released by the Highway Lost Data Institute shows vehicle crashes are 3% more likely in states where pot is legal: Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

The Highway Loss Data Institute conducted a combined analysis using neighboring states as additional controls to examine the collision claims experience of Colorado, Oregon and Washington before and after law changes.

The results: "Pre-recreational marijuana legalization annual changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were similar to those for the control states".

States with legal recreational marijuana are not suffering from a higher rate of traffic fatalities, countering claims legalization laws lead to unsafe roadways.

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.

However, a separate review of traffic fatality data kept by the Federal Highway Administration showed that fatal wrecks occurred in Washington and Colorado at about the same rate both prior to and following implementation of legal marijuana.

As HLDI continues to examine insurance claims in states that allow recreational use of marijuana, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has begun a large-scale case-control study in OR to assess how legalized marijuana use might be changing the risk of crashes with injuries.

"Colorado has had legal pot sales the longest and it is showing the greatest effect", Moore noted.

Griffin said the two studies show that more needs to be done to understand the potential effects of marijuana on driving ability.

Claim frequency was 6.2 percent higher in OR, where recreational pot sales began in October 2015, and 4.6 percent higher in Washington, which opened retail marijuana shops in July 2014.

Aydelotte and his team compared data to states where the drug is illegal and found no significant difference in fatality rates between the two groups.

The HDLI didn't just look at those three states. In the coming years, more research from the institute and others will help sharpen the focus. But what is surprising is the results from a new study from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). An additional 17 states also allow limited access for medial use. The agency says this is its first analysis of how legalized marijuana since 2014 affects accident claims.

Zuby added that the findings on cases in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado should provide other states "eyeing legalization pause".