On March 31 of this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law that makes limited amounts of marijuana legal for use by adults in New York. The law has been applauded by those who point to the positive impact it will have on jobs and revenue for the state as well as the criminal justice system.
One downside, however, could be an increase in crashes. Does legalizing recreational marijuana lead to more dangerous roads?
What does crash data in other states with legalized marijuana show?
A number of states preceded New York in legalizing recreational marijuana, so we can look to them for some indication of what to expect. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently released a study of crash rates in five western states where recreational marijuana has been legalized (with some restrictions, just as New York has).
Overall crash rates did rise in all of these states. Researchers found that these states experienced a 6% increase in crashes resulting in injuries and a 4% increase in fatal crashes when compared to nearby states without legalized recreational marijuana. Those findings are similar to those in studies from previous years.
Marijuana users admitted to dangerous driving behaviors
The data doesn’t directly connect these crashes to drivers who are under the influence of marijuana. However, a recent survey by AAA found that people who said they use marijuana are more likely to engage in risky behavior behind the wheel such as speeding, running red lights and texting than those who don’t.
The respondents didn’t say that they did those things while under the influence of marijuana. However, it’s well known that the drug can stay in a person’s system longer than alcohol, and it’s harder to detect on tests.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash caused by a driver who may have been impaired by marijuana or any other substance, including alcohol, it’s essential that you take the necessary steps to get the compensation you need for medical bills and other expenses and damages.