New Study Addresses Traffic Crashes and Marijuana Sales

Traffic crashes can happen in San Marcos and throughout Southern California for a wide variety of reasons, from distracted and aggressive driving to intoxicated or impaired driving. A recent study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) addressed collision rates following the legalization of marijuana in California and several other states. While the study revealed that the legalization of recreational marijuana in various states did lead to a “statistically significant increase in injury crash rates,” the beginning of marijuana sales in those states did not correspond with any additional increased risk of a collision. Accordingly, the study suggests that marijuana legalization may lead to an increase in traffic collisions at the outset, but further access to marijuana through retail sales does not result in any additional rise in accident rates. 

Car Accident Data and Marijuana Legalization in California

Recreational marijuana has been legal in California since 2016 with the passage of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). In the recent IIHS study, researchers looked at traffic accident rates in five states that legalized the recreational use of marijuana between 2012 and 2017, including Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, California, and Nevada. The researchers looked at car accident data in the immediate aftermath of the legalization of recreational marijuana in these states, followed by accident data in the period immediately following the start of recreational marijuana retail sales. Those dates are as follows for the states involved in the study:

  • Colorado (2012 recreational use and 2014 retail sales);
  • Washington (2012 recreational use and 2014 retail sales);
  • Oregon (2015 recreational use and 2015 retail sales);
  • California (2016 recreational use and 2018 retail sales); and
  • Nevada (2017 recreational use and 2017 retail sales).

Legalization Leads to Statistically Significant Increase in Collision Rates but Retail Sales Do Not

The key takeaway from the IIHS study is that the legalization of recreational marijuana leads to a statistically significant rise in traffic crash rates, but the start of retail sales does not lead to a statistically significant further increase in overall accident rates. Accounting for other variables, the researchers concluded that, across all states, “legalization of recreational marijuana use was associated with increased injury crash rates (+6.6%), while the subsequent legalization of retail sales was associated with a decrease (-0.6%), but only the former was statistically significant.”

In terms of deadly auto crashes across all states, the researchers determined that “legalization of recreational marijuana was associated with slightly increased fatal crash rates (+2.3%, while the subsequent legalization of retail sales was associated with another slight increase (+1.4%), but neither estimate was statistically significant.

However, the researchers ultimately suggested that legalization of recreational marijuana had a more pronounced effect on car accident rates in California. Indeed, according to the IIHS study, injury crash rates increased by nearly 5% with the legalization of recreational marijuana, with an increase of more than 8% in fatal collision rates.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in San Marcos for Assistance

If you or someone you love sustained injuries in an impaired driving collision, you should seek advice from an experienced San Marco auto accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm today for more information about how we can assist you.


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