Big Increase in Traffic Deaths Due to Pot Legalization

By Richard Morris & Eileen McGann

January 15, 2019 2 min read

The recent legalization of recreational pot has led to tragic consequences on the highways.

Studies in Colorado and Washington state, the first two states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, have found huge increases in motor vehicle deaths since pot was approved.

In Colorado, in the four years since legalization (2013-2016), marijuana-related traffic deaths rose 66 percent while all traffic deaths dropped by 16 percent.

In Washington state, the number of marijuana-related traffic deaths doubled during the same period.

In both states, there was an alarming increase in the number of arrests for impaired driving that can be traced to marijuana use. In Washington state, the proportion of suspected impaired driving cases that tested positive for THC rose from 19 percent in 2012 (before legalization) to 25 percent in 2013 to 28 percent in 2014 to 33 percent in 2015.

Significantly, the increase in traffic incidents related to pot rose most sharply during the daytime hours. The proportion of daytime drivers who tested positive for THC rose from 8 percent to 19 percent in Washington state while the nighttime proportion rose only from 18 percent to 22 percent.

The impact of marijuana legalization on traffic deaths should be a source of concern to us all. After dropping from 47,000 annually in 1988 to 32,000 in 2012, traffic deaths have climbed back slowly to 37,000 in 2017. Now, with legalization of pot kicking in, look for them to climb sharply, perhaps offsetting the gains that seat belts, airbags and DUI enforcement have brought over the past two decades.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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