Did Pot Cause My Car Wreck?

A new study by the American Journal of Public Health says you can’t blame your car crash on pot.

The study sought to track the incidents of car crash fatalities in two states with legalized recreational marijuana, with eight control states without similar laws.

The study found that there were no statistically significant differences in the number of car crashes in the two states that had legalized recreational pot versus the states that hadn’t.

By the Numbers – Legal Pot Doesn’t Harm Drivers

It’s been three years since Washington and Colorado passed laws to lift the restrictions on marijuana consumption. The authors of the study surmised that enough time had passed to gain insight into whether pot, like alcohol, affected your ability to make life or death decisions behind the wheel of a car.

The University of Texas—Austin, conducted the research. They evaluated car fatality rates in Colorado and Washington both before and after marijuana legalization. Then they compared their findings to similar statistics in eight states that hadn’t legalized pot for recreational use. The authors stated, “We found no significant association between recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado and subsequent changes in motor vehicle fatality rates in the first three years after recreational marijuana legalization.”

These are potentially significant findings for lawmakers and other public policy directors who believe cannabis use by adults could negatively impact the safety of citizens.

While longer-term studies should certainly be undertaken, this is not the first study to track the impact of legal pot on traffic deaths. In January 2017, the American Journal of Public Health published “U.S. Traffic Fatalities and Their Relationship to Medical Marijuana Laws.” In it, the authors sought to prove a correlation between medical marijuana laws and traffic fatalities.

The authors’ sifted data from the 1985-2014 Fatality Analysis Report System, reviewing traffic fatality data from each state that has passed medical marijuana laws. In fact, the study determined that states with medical marijuana laws actually had a lower rate of traffic fatalities between the ages of 25 to 44 years old.

Does Pot Reduce Road Rage?

Business Insider covered the release of another study back in December 2011, which again showed medical marijuana reduced traffic fatalities. Part of the issue correlated with a reduction in beer sales, especially in young drivers ages 20-29. What was even more interesting, was that the study suggested persons driving under the influence of alcohol were more likely to drive aggressively, and make rash, impulsive decisions, while pot smokers tended to drive more cautiously, allow safer distances between cars, and make better decisions.

Even more intriguing is this fact sheet from 4AutoInsuranceQuote.org that suggests stoned drivers slow down; drive at more consistent speeds, and less likely to experience road rage.

Common sense would suggest that a plant designed to calm the nerves would actually lessen your propensity to experience road rage. But it turns out there are actually some scientific studies by very reputable academic sources that have begun to suggest that marijuana actually makes drivers safer when behind the wheel.