How Has Legalization Really Impacted the Rate of Car Crashes?

How Has Legalization Really Impacted the Rate of Car Crashes?


Recently, two very different studies were published on very similar subjects. The first looked at whether or not car collisions had increased in states with recreational cannabis after legalization and was published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The second study looked specifically at whether or not there was an increase in fatal car crashes in states with recreational cannabis laws and was published by the American Journal of Public Health. Oddly enough, the results of the two almost seem to contradict one another – but varying data points is probably the cause of this.

The first study, done by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, found that Colorado, Washington and Oregon had a roughly 3% increase in vehicle collisions after legalization when compared to neighboring and nearby states. This was determined by looking at the average number of insurance claims and each of these states, figuring out the difference between these states and the others, and then taking an average of those results. In the end, 3% isn’t really that big of an increase, but it is still worth possibly looking into further

On the other hand, the second study – which appeared in the American Journal of Public Health – looked at only fatal car crashes. Rather than comparing legal cannabis states to nearby states in the same region, this study looked at states with similar traffic patterns to legal states. Their results ended up finding that there was absolutely no correlation between fatal crashes and marijuana legalization – which only backs up a similar study that found the same results after legalization of medical marijuana.

“What is clear from both studies is that marijuana legalization has not resulted in the immediate doomsday scenario that was predicted,” says Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project.

These two studies show slightly differing results – with one telling us there was an increase in car accidents and the other telling us there was none. The biggest difference between the two studies, however, is that one was looking specifically at fatal car crashes and the other was looking at crashes in general. It can make sense that there might be a slight increase in minor traffic collisions and parking lot fender benders after legalization – after all, cannabis is not as dangerous as alcohol but it does change the way you react, often slowing you down some.

However, the most important thing to take in from all this is that there was not a significant – or really any noticeable – increase in the rate of fatal traffic crashes after legalization. This is something that prohibitionists have used against activists and advocates in the fight to legalize cannabis in the past, and this just gives us one more data point to bring up to show that they spread their lies to induce fear of legalization.