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Study suggests legal marijuana may result in more car crashes

When people hit the road in California, they may worry about drunk drivers more than drivers using marijuana. However, marijuana can also impair drivers and a new study suggests that the use of legal recreational marijuana may cause more car accidents.

A joint study by the Highway Loss Data Institute and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety examines possible correlations between car accident rates and legal recreational marijuana. The researchers examined insurance claims from states that have legalized this substance and compared them to claims from states where this substance is still illegal. Factors such as the season and weather and the location of the collision, as well as the employment status and age of the driver, were controlled. The study concludes that car accident rates have risen 6 percent in states with legal recreational marijuana. Another conclusion of the study is that the dangers of using marijuana before getting behind the wheel seem to be misunderstood by many drivers.

Some groups have contested the results of this study. One director of a vehicle testing center says that it is difficult for medical professionals to determine how impaired a person is when he or she uses marijuana. Additionally, some people use both alcohol and marijuana, making it challenging for researchers to know if marijuana use or a combination of substances resulted in a car accident. The director of a marijuana use advocacy group also questions how the researchers involved in the study determined whether a collision was caused by marijuana instead of other factors. Because of this, some groups emphasize that people need more education about impaired driving.

A person's driving can be impaired by marijuana and alcohol, as well as by other substances, such as prescription drugs. When people get into a car accident, they may suspect that one of these substances was involved. In some situations, people may want to consider speaking with an attorney to understand their options.

Source: Consumer Reports, "Car Crashes Are Up in States With Legal Recreational Marijuana, Study Shows," Keith Barry, October 18, 2018

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