Marijuana Legalization linked to rise in fatal crashes

Traffic Safety Pulse News

(HealthDay News)In 4 out of 7 states that legalized recreational cannabis, deaths from car crashes rose 10%, according to the University of Illinois Chicago study. On a brighter note, suicide and opioid overdose deaths declined in the states that legalized recreational marijuana.

"Overall, this study provides evidence of the potential harms and benefits of legalizing recreational markets," said lead author Samantha Marinello , a postdoctoral research associate in the university's School of Public Health. Marijuana plants inside a grow facility

"A potential unintended consequence of legalizing recreational cannabis is an increase in intoxicated driving and crash deaths," she added. "Therefore, there is a need for policies and public health initiatives to reduce driving under the influence."

As of December, 21 states and Washington, D.C., allowed the sale of recreational marijuana to adults age 21 and older.

Where folks can legally toke, it's likely people are driving under the influence of cannabis or cannabis in combination with another drug such as alcohol, Marinello said. However, this study cannot prove cause and effect, she added.

Some people may believe driving high is safe. "Studies of cannabis users have found safety perception is a strong predictor for cannabis-intoxicated driving," Marinello said.

There is evidence that many cannabis users do not believe cannabis negatively affects their driving, agreed Russ Martin , senior director of policy and government relations at the Governors Highway Safety Association.

"In fact, some believe cannabis consumption improves it," he said. "The more often people consume cannabis, the less dangerous they consider driving under the influence of cannabis to be."

The association does not take a position for or against cannabis legalization for adults, Martin said. "But we need to make sure we are ready for any impacts on the roadways." Read the full article here.