Has legalized marijuana caused any increase in traffic accidents?

Several states have had legalized marijuana for a while now and some statistics have now been gathered on the possible effects it may be having on driving. Now with California and its millions of drivers having joined the states with legalized marijuana it has become even more important to get an idea of any influence marijuana use may have on car accidents and highway fatalities.

Studies have been conducted using the available data from Colorado, Washington and Oregon where marijuana has been legal for a while to see if there has been an increase in traffic accidents. The findings varied widely suggesting that over a period of time, collision claim frequencies in the states that had legalized marijuana were about 3 percent higher than would have been anticipated without legalization. Although the number was small, it was none the less thought to be significant.

It appears that the first three states to legalize recreational marijuana have experienced more crashes. There is another study however that found no increase in vehicle crash fatalities in Colorado and Washington, relative to similar states, after legalization.

So where one study found that accidents did in fact go up significantly after legalizing marijuana, another study found that legalization had virtually no effect on fatal crashes. The two studies seem to contradict each other, but when you look more closely at what the studies focused on it begins to make more sense. While one study looked specifically at claims for motor vehicle collisions, the other was ore focused on fatal crashes.

So, it seems that legalized marijuana can lead to more accident that don’t prove fatal. In fact, federal research has shown that while smoking weed and then driving does elevate your risk of a crash, it’s still less impairing than alcohol which dramatically increases the likelihood of a crash even in small doses.

It’s probably still a good idea to do neither before driving a car.