Study: Adult Use Marijuana Laws Do Not Adversely Impact Traffic Fatality Rates

thumbs_upThe enactment of statewide laws regulating the adult use and sale of cannabis is not associated with subsequent changes in traffic fatality rates, according to an analysis of traffic safety data (“Crash fatality rates after recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado”) published today in the American Journal of Public Health.

Investigators from the University of Texas-Austin evaluated crash fatality rates in Colorado and Washington pre- and post-legalization. They compared these rates to those of eight control states that had not enacted any significant changes in their marijuana laws.

“We found no significant association between recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado and subsequent changes in motor vehicle fatality rates in the first three years after recreational marijuana legalization,” author concluded.

They further reported, “[W]e also found no association between recreational marijuana legalization and total crash rates when analyzing available state-reported nonfatal crash statistics.”

Commenting on the findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These conclusions ought to be reassuring to lawmakers and those in the public who have concerns that regulating adult marijuana use may inadvertently jeopardize public safety. These results indicate that such fears have not come to fruition, and that such concerns ought not to unduly influence legislators or voters in other jurisdictions that are considering legalizing cannabis.”

A prior study published last year by the same journal reported that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with a reduction in traffic fatalities compared to other states, particularly among younger drivers.

Fatal accident rates have fallen significantly over the past two decades — during the same time that a majority of US states have legalized marijuana for either medical or social use. In 1996, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were an estimated 37,500 fatal car crashes on US roadways. This total fell to under 30,000 by 2014.

A summary of the study appears online under ‘First Look’ on the website here.

6 thoughts

  1. Ol UT at Austin chimin in with the NHTSA and AAA? And we should know about traffic fatalities in Austin; our DA once got busted driving the wrong way up loop 360 with half a bottle of vodka and prescription meds. During SXSW we had a drunk driver plow through a barracade and into a bunch of people right in front of the police station. Dont see that on weed.

    At least lioking forward we dont just have longitudinal data from our own states, but pretty soon we’ll be sandwiched with data from our neighbors to the north and south. Canada is ready to legalize this spring and Mexico just legalized industrial hemp and medical marijuana:

  2. It sure would be nice to be able to print out the article on Smokin and Drivin? I am going to go to a film on the Drug war at a coffee shop in Grass Valley with a wide population. I would like to share this info with the people and the police that show up. I am not that computer savy and the downloading that is offered asks for more info than I want to give out.

  3. This supports the hypothesis that marijuana reduces so-called “road rage” and the risks associated with that condition.

  4. I did a driving study of my own over 1.5 million miles.

    I found that drivin the semi truck in all the lower 48 states is exactly the same while stoned. All the roads are similar, the signs are all in English, the speed limit goes up and down. I have found that I check the mirrors more often while stoned and generally go 2 miles per hour below the speed limit…..

    meanwhile… The people driving the cars are FLYING past me doing maybe a 100mph, blabbing on the phone, texting, reading, doing makeup or eating,,, but they are not paying attention to the driving part.

    The conclusion of the study is that driving while stoned is far safer over all.

    1. Thanks Dave for that freshly-rolled hands-on-the-wheel perspective. While NORML does not condone driving while stoned I feel much safer with you on the road than some pill popping kid texting his drug dealer who thought cutting me off in the merge lane was a good idea.

  5. I got my driver’s license while I was stoned at 26 years of age (late. I know). Eyes would have been bloodshot red had I not used eye drops. But I passed and in my 2 years on the road have never crashed or been pulled over by a cop. I drive safe and follow the speed limit religiously. When I drive stoned I worry about getting pulled over so I’m more cautious. And that’s the truth lol.

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