Woman Driving a Car and Smoking

States Legalizing Marijuana See a Reduction in Traffic Fatalities

A recent study by Quartz Advisor reveals intriguing findings about the correlation between marijuana legalization and traffic fatalities. Here’s a breakdown:

Young woman in ornamental sweater and cap biting nail against female friend driving transport during journey

The report, titled “Legalizing Marijuana Hasn’t Made Roads Less Safe”, was unveiled on October 24th. It discloses that from 2016 onwards, traffic deaths decreased in four states that green-lit adult-use cannabis. On the contrary, states that refrained from legalizing cannabis saw a slight uptick in traffic deaths. It’s worth noting that there were exceptions in 2020 and 2021—years deeply affected by the pandemic—which saw an increase in traffic fatalities universally.

  • States That Legalized Marijuana: California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada, which fully embraced marijuana legalization in 2016, witnessed a decline or steady count in traffic fatalities in the subsequent three years. This contrasts with states that kept marijuana illegal, which saw a slight increase in fatalities.
  • Bigger Picture: On a broader scope involving data from the U.S. and Canada, no substantial changes in accidents and fatalities post-legalization were identified.
  • Comparative Analysis: Alcohol, still legal in all 50 states and D.C., contributes to roughly one-third of all vehicular deaths.

For a precise analysis, the study harnessed traffic death data from the National Safety Council (NSC), deeming it the most accurate source.

“We zeroed in on four states that fully legalized marijuana in 2016. By using the metric of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles from NSC, we assessed vehicle death rates in these states post-2016 and juxtaposed them with the U.S. average. Furthermore, we contrasted these figures with states like Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming—states that haven’t legalized marijuana.”

David Straughan, Senior Automotive Journalist ELABORATING on the methodology,

Interestingly, while traffic death rates universally escalated during the pandemic. States not embracing cannabis legalization noted a “slightly increased” fatality rate.

Factoring Out the Pandemic Years:

Stripping the data of 2020 and 2021, years marked by the pandemic, revealed that the U.S. saw an 18.9% spike in traffic fatality rates. This trend was almost mirrored in states that legalized marijuana in 2016, with a 19.9% rise. Conversely, states that haven’t legalized marijuana, which tend to be more rural. Observed a 2.3% dip in traffic deaths during the same timeframe.

Marijuana and Driving Impairment:

Although cannabis does affect driving abilities. The American Journal of Addictions (AJA) disclosed that most drivers under the influence of marijuana exhibit minimal impairments during actual road tests. Seasoned smokers especially displayed negligible functional impairment while driving.

Driving Under Marijuana’s Influence:

In 2019, High Times reported that a significant number of Americans consume marijuana before driving. A 2019 study by the CDC, showed that around 12 million American adults admitted to driving under marijuana’s influence the previous year.

Surprisingly, an AAA report indicated that nearly 70% of Americans think it’s improbable to be caught driving high on marijuana. Moreover, an alarming 14.8 million drivers admitted to driving shortly after consuming marijuana in the past month.

In conclusion, while the impacts of marijuana on driving ability remain a topic of discussion, the statistics surrounding traffic fatalities in states that have legalized marijuana are certainly worth noting. Especially in the broader context of national traffic safety trends.

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