The other day, I overheard a couple of customers discussing how much the legalization of marijuana, in California, has driven up the accident frequency. I wondered if this was actually true and I thought that this might be a great subject to research for this weeks blog. Are California marijuana laws causing more accidents? The results may just surprise you.

It’s been a couple of years now since the legalization of marijuana in the state of California. It was highly speculated that the legalization of marijuana would increase the rate of driving under the influence. Experts predicted that the increased usage would see the California roads become much more dangerous. But, now that we have a couple of years of data, is there any measurable change in accidents?

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association, marijuana is the second most common drug involved in accidents. Alcohol still remains in the top spot. While over the last 10 years most drugs have seen an increase in the use while driving, marijuana has seen the highest increase. This number is difficult to measure with accuracy since there is no good roadside test for marijuana.

While California is newer to the legalization of marijuana, it isn’t the first to legalize the drug. In the other states, that have more data on the effect of marijuana on traffic accidents, the results appear to show that car crashes have increased in states where recreational marijuana is legal according to two new studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute.

Their research shows that insurance crash claims are up by six percent in in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, compared to neighboring states where recreational marijuana is not legal. Another analysis of police accident reports in Colorado, Oregon and Washington saw a 5.2 percent spike in accidents in those states, again compared other states.

An earlier opposing study, by Reuter Health, found that there was actually a decrease in the accident. In studying the 28 states that had legalized marijuana for medical use. Deaths dropped 11 percent on average in states that legalized marijuana, researchers discovered after analyzing 1.2 million traffic fatalities nationwide from 1985 through 2014.

While it may seem easy to jump to the conclusion that the effect of California legalization was predictably going to cause a rise in traffic accidents, it’s important to understand a few other facts.

The first fact, California already had much laxer marijuana laws than other states studied, with medical use marijuana. You could argue that the majority of people who wanted to legally smoke marijuana already could, making the change less significant.

It’s also important to realize that just under half of the accidents involving marijuana, that the drivers also showed measurable levels of alcohol. These make the cause and effect a bit more difficult to measure.

To study effects of marijuana legalization on accident rates, you also have to look at other things that happened in the last few years. Most notably the introduction of (ADAS) Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, that have been added to vehicles during this same time. ADAS includes features like blind spot alert, collision alert and autonomous emergency braking that have been proven do decrease accident rates.

While it may be difficult to answer the question, Are California marijuana laws causing more accidents? The reality is that driving under the influence remains dangerous and illegal. Regardless if any study has yet to quantify the change of marijuana leagalization on an increase in accidents, it remains common sense to avoid driving under the influence of any drug.

If you find yourself in an accident and needing auto body repair, call us at Collision Pros serving Auburn, Chico, Red Bluff, Paradise and Woodland, California.HAS

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