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Is legalized pot use spurring an uptick in auto accidents?


Wait, no.

Readers looking for a definitive answer to the above-posed headline query in today’s blog post aren’t likely to get one. The answer to whether recreational marijuana use in a growing number of states is a driving catalyst (both figuratively and literally) in a spiking number of car crashes will vary based on the party being asked the question.

Two prominent insurance organizations stress that there is no ambiguity in any alleged link between legalized pot and increased motor vehicle accidents. Principals from the Highway Loss Data Institute and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety underscore with absolute certainty a close connection. They state that both serious injury outcomes and roadway deaths have markedly increased in American states that have statutory laws allowing for the legal use of marijuana.

And the groups point to relevant numbers that buttress their conclusion. The HLDI notes, for example, that the confirmed frequency of collision claims is appreciably higher in Colorado and Washington (the earliest converts to a legalized-pot regime) than in nearby states where marijuana a use is still unlawful. And the IIHS spotlights statistics showing an overall jump in crashes in pot-legal states that is not duplicated in not-legal neighboring states.

Not everyone agrees with the “it’s more dangerous” data, though. The think tank Reason Foundation offers up a markedly contrastive analysis, namely, that the simple presence of THC (the active compound in marijuana) does not prove impairment. TCH commonly remains in a pot user’s blood long after a high has worn off. Moreover, states Reason, many people use pot together with alcohol, with the latter often being far more responsible as an accident-inducing agent.

The debate will unquestionably continue, and with increasing amounts of relevant data at the fore, as growing numbers of states are enacting legalized-pot schemes. We will keep readers in Louisiana and elsewhere duly updated on any material developments that occur.

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