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Car Crashes increase in Marijuana Legal States

There has been a 5.2% soaring increase in Car crashes in the first three states to legalize recreational marijuana. Colorado, Oregon, and Washington were the first 3 states to legalize marijuana and they are reaping the results of legalizing marijuana without have systems in place for law enforcement and regulators to define driving high, let alone determine how to fight it. Unlike with alcohol, scientifically there’s neither a proven definition of marijuana-impaired driving nor a method of detecting it, making it difficult to police and prosecute

Now, let's compare that fact with neighboring states where such sales are illegal, according to data compiled and analyzed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Researchers tallied crash rates between 2012 and 2016.

As quoted from the our Bloomberg source, Daily Newsflash, "Auto-insurance collision claims in the three states have also increased a combined 6% since legalization, compared with neighboring western states without legal weed, the Highway Loss Data Institute found. Analysts controlled for variables such as driver population, car model, weather, and driving environment. The increases have caught Congress and federal regulators off guard as states with legalized marijuana seek answers. Insurance companies say driving under the influence statistics don’t separate out marijuana and can’t be used to set rates, taking away another potential deterrent to driving high. And Congress has impeded regulator efforts to collect more information on the subject."

As Helen Witty of Mothers Against Drunk Driving states, “Drunk driving is still the No. 1 killer on our roads,” “But drugged driving, as it’s legalized across this country, is a huge, emerging issue.”

Scientific studies have supported the facts of drivers who are high tend to drive at lower speeds, have more difficulty staying in their lanes, and are slower to brake in an emergency than drunk drivers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported. That may explain why traffic fatalities aren’t necessarily rising in the states that have legalized pot even as reports of accidents and collision claims have.

Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, officials have seen a decrease in marijuana-impaired traffic fatalities. About 8% of all traffic fatalities tested positive for five nanograms of THC in 2017, down from 12% in 2016, according to the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. That’s the blood-THC level at which Colorado drivers can be charged with driving under the influence. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the substance in marijuana that causes a user’s impairment.

Washington observed a spike in the number of fatally injured drivers who had the chemical in their blood after recreational sales started in 2014. The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes there who tested positive for any THC has more than doubled since 2013, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission said.

How Weed Impairs

As reported in the article, "Police offers may use a Breathalyzer to confirm whether a driver’s blood alcohol level, known as BAC, is above the federal legal limit of .08%. Five states have limits for THC, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, but there’s no scientifically accepted method of testing for impairment. That’s because marijuana and alcohol affect the body differently."

The presence of marijuana in the blood doesn’t necessarily indicate impairment, said Staci Hoff, research director at the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. Also, THC can all but disappear from the bloodstream in as little as half an hour, making it difficult to capture evidence that a person is too high to drive.

Additional factors such as potency, how often someone consumes, and whether marijuana is consumed through an edible, oil, or smoke can affect driving, said Erin Sauber-Schatz, a transportation safety team leader at the Centers for Disease Control. “It’s like we’re missing the right marker in order to identify impairment,” said Kyle Clark of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Again, how can you enforce laws where there is no exact defining of the infractions? “I’m sorry that the legalization has happened before the science is there because I think that’s a huge danger for our society and the protection of our people,” MADD’s Witty said.

While auto insurers use DUI information to set prices, the available data generally doesn’t distinguish by substance. Until it does, marijuana use or the fact someone lives in an area where pot is legal won’t affect rates. Janet Ruiz, a spokeswoman for the insurance information institute stated, “We’re kind of on the brink of making those strides to be able to drill down forward."

“I feel like we’ve won the culture war that it is a bad idea to drink alcohol and drive,” said Garcia, the safety resource prosecutor in Washington state. “People will agree with you that no, you shouldn’t be drinking and driving. But if you ask the same question about marijuana, they’re not sure.” Seems pretty strange to have such differing viewpoints on substances which affect ones abilities in driving.

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