One of the big bullet points that anti-pot legislators consistently cite as a reason to keep marijuana illegal is the potential increase in the number of stoned drivers on our nation’s roads. But is the growing trend of legalized marijuana to blame for a rise in car crashes in some states? That’s what the Highway Loss Data Institute is investigating now that the number of collision claims has risen by between 4.5 and 16 percent in several states where weed has been made legal for recreational use.
According to the group’s statistics, crash rates have spiked in Colorado, Washington and Oregon by 16 percent, 6.2 percent, and 4.5 percent, respectively. The figures compare the accident claim figures between January of 2012 and October of 2016, and the numbers are hard to argue with.
“We’re concerned about what we’re seeing,” Matt Moore of the Highway Loss Data Institute told CNBC. “We see strong evidence of an increased crash risk in states that have approved recreational marijuana sales.”
However, there are other factors here that could play a role, including the increased prevalence of smartphones (and the distracted driving that often comes with them), as well as an increase of the number of cars on the road.
Driving while intoxicated — either by alcohol or any other substance — is still obviously illegal, and if a driver fails a field sobriety test they can be charged with a crime regardless of whether their inebriation is due to a bottle of booze or a joint. That said, there is no established test specifically for marijuana intoxication, which makes the cause impossible to nail down.