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Study: Marijuana legalization linked to increase in fatal crashes

On Behalf of | May 4, 2023 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

Marijuana use does not carry the stigma it once did. Some people believe marijuana use is no more dangerous — or is even safer — than smoking tobacco cigarettes or drinking alcohol. So far, 21 states as well as Washington, D.C., have legalized the use of marijuana.

Still, marijuana use can impair a person’s senses, coordination and cognitive functioning. If a person chooses to drive after using marijuana, they could be too impaired to do so safely and might cause a car crash. One recent study out of the University of Illinois Chicago reports some states that legalized marijuana saw an increase in fatal car crashes.

Does marijuana legalization lead to car crashes?

The study examined crash fatalities in seven states where marijuana use is legal. The study found that in the 10 years from 2009 to 2019, there was a 10% increase on average in the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents in these states.

However, it is recognized that many variables contribute to fatal car crashes involving marijuana use. Marijuana impairment can be difficult to measure, and the use of marijuana alone might not always be the driving factor that causes a deadly collision.

The effects of marijuana impairment

Still, it is important to understand that marijuana use can make a person too intoxicated to drive safely. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that marijuana use reduces your reaction time, negatively affects your coordination and balance, alters your perception, and negatively affects your memory and judgment.

Any of these effects can make driving difficult. Since all motorists are tasked with ensuring they can safely operate their vehicles when they get behind the wheel, it makes sense to avoid driving after using marijuana. A motorist who is high is impaired, and this impairment could lead them to cause a car crash.