How Legalizing Marijuana May Affect the Frequency of Car Accidents
New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy has caused concern among residents of the state for his push to legalize recreational marijuana. The new Governor plans to pass legislation along with the legalization that would regulate marijuana use similarly to the way alcohol is currently regulated throughout the state. However, states with legalized marijuana for recreational use contradict federal statutes that outlaw any use of the substance. In addition, the Governor’s fellow lawmakers—mostly on the Republican side—have been vocal about their opposition to legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, believing it will only cause harm to the population.
One of the biggest concerns in terms of legalizing marijuana has to do with car accidents. Some are worried that the legalization of the drug will lead to an increase in accidents due to intoxicated driving. However, it is not as easy to detect marijuana intoxication as it is to detect alcohol intoxication, making it more difficult to regulate drivers under the influence. Further, it makes obtaining concrete data on how marijuana legalization may affect car accident rates difficult as well.
In one study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the number of insurance claims made for motor vehicle accidents in states where marijuana use is legal was compared with those where it is not legal. The study showed that there was a slight increase—three percent—in insurance claims filed in the states where marijuana had been legalized. Essentially, states with legalized marijuana for recreational use have seen an increased number of car accidents.
However, another study conducted by the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) showed a negligible difference in fatal traffic accidents after marijuana had been legalized in Washington and Colorado. While the two studies seem to contradict each other, the former measured insurance claims filed for all car accidents, while the latter only looked at fatal crashes reported.
There currently does not exist a reliable chemical test that would allow law enforcement to determine whether a driver is under the influence at the scene. There are tests that can detect the presence—with questionable accuracy—of marijuana in the body after consumption within the past few weeks, but there is no test that would determine whether someone is currently under its influence.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a car accident, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney after seeking medical attention. The New Jersey car accident lawyers at Rinaldo Law Group are highly experienced in handling cases involving injuries from another drivers’ negligence. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call 1-833-RINALDO or fill out our contact form.