New research shows more crashes in marijuana-legal states

Sarah Tew  CNET

A number of studies have confirmed that marijuana use negatively affects drivers, including causing a slower reaction time when drivers must respond to unexpected events, such as situations where they need to slam on the brakes; causing problems with switching lanes properly; and impaired cognitive performance, according to a review of the research by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration sent to Congress in July 2017 (pdf).

A report released this week says that states that legalized marijuana have seen an increase in crashes.

A separate IIHS study looked at police-reported crashes from 2012 through 2016 in Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

The researchers looked at Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington and found that the frequency of collision claims per insured vehicle year rose a combined 6 percent following the start of legalization, when compared to neighboring states that haven't legalized recreational pot.

Researchers say that's compared to neighboring states where recreational marijuana use is not legal. In Recreational weed went on the market in OR in October 2015, and in Nevada in July 2017.

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"It's very challenging - we know very well how to measure blood alcohol concentrations, we know how to take those numbers and turn them into laws, such as the.08 laws that we have for legal limits with regards to alcohol, we're not at the same level of knowledge with respect to marijuana", Harkey said.

Five additional states and the District of Columbia allow the recreational use of marijuana for adults. The findings are being presented at a law enforcement summit organized by the two groups.

The new research "indicates that legalizing marijuana for all uses is having an impact on the safety of our roads", David Harkey, president of IIHS and HLDI, said in a press release. As the IIHS notes, "Many states don't include consistent information on driver drug use in crash reports, and policies and procedures for drug testing are inconsistent".

Driving under the influence of drugs is illegal in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Oftentimes, drivers who are tested for alcohol have other drugs in their system, not just marijuana, making it harder to isolate. Missouri and Utah could expand medical marijuana, also in November.

"The bottom line of all of this is that we're seeing a consistently higher crash risk in those states that have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes", Harkey said.

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