Does Driving While High Create More Crashes?

In states looking to legalize pot, police and politicians often grapple with the same hard question: How will that affect road safety?

The topic has dominated discussions in legislative committee rooms from California to Massachusetts and also on front porches across the country, as activists gathering petition signatures have gone door-to-door trying to sway potential voters in legalization efforts. Now new data may bolster arguments against legalization.

A study released Thursday by a leading insurance research group showed an uptick in collision claims in states that have legalized marijuana.

In the years since recreational pot sales became legal in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, those states saw a 2.7% increase in collision claims, according to the study from the Highway Loss Data Institute. The group used data from insurance claims and not law enforcement records. Legal sales took effect in Colorado in January 2014, followed by Washington that July and Oregon in October 2015.

"It's tricky to say what the exact magnitude of legal marijuana is on this increase," said Matt Moore, senior vice president of the Virginia-based nonprofit. "But it's safe to say that since retail sales have begun, crashes have increased in these states."

The group used neighboring states -- Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming to name a few -- as controls with the states that legalized pot and did before-and-after comparisons. After retail marijuana sales began in Colorado, the increase in collision-claim frequency was 14% higher than in nearby Utah and Wyoming, according to the report. Washington's estimated increase in claim frequency was 6% higher than in Montana and Idaho.

Trying to gauge how high is too high behind the wheel has long perplexed states. Unlike for alcohol, there is no on-scene breathalyzer for marijuana that's widely used, so confirming pot use requires officers take drivers to police stations to administer a blood test....

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Does Driving While High Create More Crashes?

In states looking to legalize pot, police and politicians often grapple with the same hard question: How will that affect road safety?

The topic has dominated discussions in legislative committee rooms from California to Massachusetts and also on front porches across the country, as activists gathering petition signatures have gone door-to-door trying to sway potential voters in legalization efforts. Now new data may bolster arguments against legalization.

A study released Thursday by a leading insurance research group showed an uptick in collision claims in states that have legalized marijuana.

In the years since recreational pot sales became legal in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, those states saw a 2.7% increase in collision claims, according to the study from the Highway Loss Data Institute. The group used data from insurance claims and not law enforcement records. Legal sales took effect in Colorado in January 2014, followed by Washington that July and Oregon in October 2015.

"It's tricky to say what the exact magnitude of legal marijuana is on this increase," said Matt Moore, senior vice president of the Virginia-based nonprofit. "But it's safe to say that since retail sales have begun, crashes have increased in these states."

The group used neighboring states -- Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming to name a few -- as controls with the states that legalized pot and did before-and-after comparisons. After retail marijuana sales began in Colorado, the increase in collision-claim frequency was 14% higher than in nearby Utah and Wyoming, according to the report. Washington's estimated increase in claim frequency was 6% higher than in Montana and Idaho.

Trying to gauge how high is too high behind the wheel has long perplexed states. Unlike for alcohol, there is no on-scene breathalyzer for marijuana that's widely used, so confirming pot use requires officers take drivers to police stations to administer a blood test....

Comments are closed.