By criminal defense attorney Thomas Soldan, who is barred and practices in the state of Virginia, with Price Benowitz LLP. Soldan has focused his practice on reckless driving, DUI/DWI, traffic, and personal injury litigation.
A recent study released by the Highway Loss Data Institute shows an increase in collision claims reported to insurers in states that have approved the sale of marijuana for recreational use.
The sum of collisions reported to insurers in Colorado, where marijuana has been legal the longest, Oregon and Washington, is three percent higher than expected if marijuana was not legal.
The study observed that more drivers admit using marijuana, which shows up more frequently in accidents.
To see if accident rates were higher in the legal use states, the Institute compared collision claim rates prior to and subsequent to legalization with the collision claim rates of nearby states where marijuana is illegal.
The aggregate-state analysis yielded the results that Colorado, Oregon and Washington have had more crashes, while the testing done on the individual states implies that the size of the effect depends on many factors including length of legalization.
For example, Colorado realized the biggest increase in crash claim frequency compared with its control states: the increase in Colorado’s collision claim frequency was 14 percent higher than in Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.
The Institute noted that while there is evidence that marijuana can impair some aspects of driving performance, researchers have not been able to connect marijuana use with more frequent crashes definitively.
Although the Institute’s research found a greater crash risk, it did not conclude if the increase in collisions was directly caused by high drivers.
As more states consider legalizing recreational marijuana use, critics worry that this will cause an increase in accidents from people driving while high. Currently, there is no test for marijuana use like a Breathalyzer.
Defense attorney Thomas Soldan noted that “while these numbers are a start, certainly more research and data is necessary to determine if marijuana legalization is truly leading to an uptick in dangerous driving.”