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Will marijuana cause a spike in California car accidents?

When voters opted to legalize marijuana last November, it raised a number of questions. Some of these questions surrounded how the substance would be regulated now that it’s legal. Other questions involved the potential consequences to public safety.

Chief among these safety issues is whether marijuana would lead to an increase in the number of accidents on California roads. Two studies that have recently been released are shedding some light on what impact–if any–marijuana may have on the number of car accidents in California going forward.

The first study comes from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). The researchers studied claims from 2012-2016 in Colorado, Oregon and Washington. They sought to identify how the number of collision claims changed before and after those states legalized marijuana.

The conclusion was that legalization of marijuana led to a nearly 3% increase in collision claims.

No increase in the number of fatalities

A second study seems to challenge those findings. The American Journal for Public Health (AJPH) found that legalizing marijuana hasn’t increased the number of fatal car accidents.

Researchers looked at the number of fatal accidents in Washington and Colorado from 2009-2015. They compared that data to similar states to reach their conclusion.

At first glance, it may appear that these two studies are contradicting each other. But as the Washington Post notes, the researchers were looking at different things. The HLDI study was looking at the number of claims submitted. The AJPH study was only looking at the number of accidents that resulted in a fatality.

The initial conclusion that can be drawn is that legalization of marijuana may increase the number of collision. An increase in the number of auto accidents is a concerning development.

The silver lining is that initial findings are demonstrating that legalized marijuana isn’t increasing the number of fatal car accidents. There will likely continue to be studies released in the coming years that outline what impact legal marijuana is having in California.

Drive safely and exercise caution on the roads. If you’re in an accident after using marijuana, it’s important you understand what your legal rights are.

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