A study conducted by the insurance research group The Highway Loss Data Institute shows that legal pot smoking is tied to a spike in car crashes in states that legalized recreational marijuana.
The group found that collisions claims increased 2.7% in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado in the period following legalization as compared to neighboring states that didn’t legalize pot for recreational purposes.
Colorado began selling recreational marijuana in Jan. 2014, Washington in June 2014, and Oregon a year later.
Investigators fund that the crash risk is higher in states with legal pot, and they believe there is a link between the uptick and the legal drug.
Legal marijuana advocates at the Marijuana Policy Project criticized the study for comparing mostly rural states such as Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho with the overwhelmingly urban states such as Colorado and Washington. States with large urban centers are more prone to car crashes, pot activists claim.
Insurance Industry Keeping a Close Watch on Number of Insurance Claims
The group said the issue should be further researched before reaching a final conclusion since the current study “raises more questions than it provides answers.”
Researchers said that they adjusted their findings for factors that may influence the outcome of the study such as weather, the number of cars in a specific state, age and sex of drivers and employment status.
The insurance industry has been monitoring the variations in insurance claims since 2013 after a decade of decline. Insurance companies cannot explain the recent variations in the number of claims but they suspect a number of factors may be at play. These factors include distracting driving as more and more drivers use their smartphones while they’re behind the steering wheel, road construction, and legal pot smoking. Nevertheless, drunk driving remains the primary cause for car crashes in all states.
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