A new study shows that legalized recreational marijuana might increase car accidents. The study was driven by the insurance research group ‘The Highway Loss Data Institute’ (HLDI), and they said that insurance claims have increased in different states since they legalized recreational marijuana

The insurance research group analyzed data from January 2012 to October 2016. They noticed that in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, there were more insurance claims since 2014. They took into consideration the gender and the age of drivers and other factors such as the number of vehicles on the road and the weather.

“We believe that the data is saying that crash risk has increased in these states and those crash risks are associated with the legalization of marijuana,” said Matt Moore, senior vice president of the Institute, which analyzes insurance data to observe emerging auto-safety trends.

recreational marijuana is now legal in more than 8 US states
Image credit: David McNew / Getty Images / Fortune

This is the first study that isolates legal recreational marijuana as a factor of car crashes incidence

The data collected by the Highway Loss Data Institute was published last week, revealing that legalizing recreational marijuana might have adverse effects on the safety of people on the roads. The survey states that auto crash claims have considerably increased in those states that have accepted recreational marijuana.

Colorado and Washington said ‘yes’ to recreational marijuana in 2014. Oregon legalized it in October 2015. According to the insurance research, company insurance claims have increased by 3 percent in those states since the recreational weed became legal.

According to the researchers, there are more people under marijuana effects behind the wheels; more drivers admit they use marijuana and these people are frequently involved in car crashes. Researchers compared the analyzed data from these states to the ones of the states where legal recreational marijuana is not a thing yet.

Marijuana can be entirely blamed on

Though this study opens up the doors for more research about the matter, it is important to highlight that even the insurance companies say that there are other factors to consider that are stronger than legal recreational pot. For example, driving while being distracted by the phone, road constructions and the increasing number of people on the streets.

“It would be difficult to say that marijuana is a definitive factor, lacking a citation, in a significant number of crashes to say that what we see here is a trend,” noted Kenton Brine, president of the Northwest Insurance.

Council, a group that represents insurance companies in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

For example, one of the critics made to this survey is that they compared data from states with a dense population such as Washington to the claims made in rural states such as Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, where there are fewer people behind the wheel. This was highlighted by Mason Tvert, a marijuana legalization advocate and communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project.

Last week, two Chicago Democrats introduced a legislation in the Congress to legalize recreational marijuana. Image credit: Fox 59
Last week, two Chicago Democrats introduced legislation in the Congress to legalize recreational marijuana. Image Credit: Fox 59

Another study says exactly the opposite

While some might be considering marijuana as an important factor to understand the increasing number of car crashes, there is another study that denies these research findings. It was also published last week, and it considers the number of fatal car crashes between 2009 and 2015 to identify the incidence of marijuana on them. They went through the data from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System. When they analyzed the data from Colorado and Washington, they saw that there wasn’t a difference between these states where recreational marijuana is legal and eight other states where recreational cannabis is not allowed.

“Three years after recreational marijuana legalization, changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization,” Stated the study.

This study was published in American Journal of Public Health

However, these results contrast the data released by the Colorado Department of Transportation, because these stats show that car accident deaths increased 11 percent in 2016. Therefore, there might be a missing factor to be considered in the study, and there might be room to consider the effects of marijuana. However, it is important to highlight that the survey didn’t include data from 2016.

In conclusion, it is hard to tell if legalizing marijuana is something that increases fatalities in car crashes and auto insurance claims. Maybe more research needs to be done in the following years to understand the impact of recreational cannabis on the roads. Some people daresay that these surveys raised more questions than answers about the matter.

However, what can’t be denied is that both studies drew attention to the possible threats of recreational marijuana to public safety because there are certainly more people who are driving when they are under the effects of marijuana. It is important for states to consider all these factors, so they can take preventive measures to avoid this kind of situation on the roads, once they legalize recreational pot.

Source: The Chicago Tribune