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Does Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Cause More Accidents?

We’ve all had that friend that is perpetually high and will claim, even on his deathbed, that weed actually makes him a better driver. After all, doesn’t weed make you slower, maybe even more paranoid, and, thus, more cautious when on the road?

The truth is everyone reacts to being under the influence of marijuana in their own unique way. There’s no way to standardize the effect of weed on a group of people. As much as contemporary cannabis companies want you to remember that “indica” means in da couch with their sophisticated branding, all types of marijuana can affect you profoundly differently than the person next to you. With that said, it makes sense that no matter who you think you are, you’re not yourself when you get high and take the wheel.

As More States Legalize Marijuana, They See More Crashes

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is currently trying to figure out what legalized recreational marijuana actually means to road safety. Currently, they see data that tells us what we already should expect. When you’re high, you’re simply not firing on all cylinders.

Overall, states that have legalized marijuana use have seen a 6% increase in crash rates and a 4% increase in fatal crash rates. Insurance companies have also seen a similar increase in non-police-reported collision incidents, which have risen by around 4% in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. The stats are pretty cut-and-dry; legalizing weed means more crashes. Yet, is there more to the story?

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What’s to Blame? There Are Several Theories

The IIHS is not quick to blame the drug for the spike in crashes. Instead, they’re still doing research and investigating their findings. After all, statistics don’t also tell the full story. On the contrary, they can often tell whatever story you want them to. Currently, the IIHS offers a few theories as to why crash rates increase when a state legalizes weed:

  • Once marijuana is legalized, enthusiasm for the drug soars, meaning that more people are stoned, so more stoned people are on the road. If this is true, the enthusiasm eventually dies down, making roads safer after about a year of the drug being legalized. The IIHS is still unsure of this.
  • Marijuana, much like alcohol, impairs your judgment and makes you a worse driver. Let’s call this the most obvious, but possibly the most deceptively simple theory.
  • The kind of person that smokes while driving is also the type of person that’ll keep a Miller Lite in their cup holder, which means the “run-of-the-mill” alcohol-induced DUI recipient is also self-reporting their marijuana use, which makes it hard to pin the impairment on one, the other, or both drugs.

Don’t Smoke & Drive, It’s That Simple

Whether you think you become a mathematical genius on weed or admit that it makes you super anxious about where to keep your hands when talking to a person at a party, we simply ask that you not drive while impaired in any fashion. An impairment can be anything, even something innocent like sleepiness or distracted driving. The fact is, if something diminishes your ability to pay attention to the road, then put it away while you’re operating a vehicle.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in this industry, it’s that we all think we’re better drivers than we actually are. Drive humble, drive sober, and stay out of jail. It’s that simple.