Studies Show Car Accidents Spike After Marijuana Legalization

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Does Marijuana Legalization Lead to More Car Accidents in California?

Does Marijuana Legalization Lead to More Car Accidents in California?

Dec 8, 2021

In 2016, California became the fifth state in the nation to legalize marijuana. Under Proposition 64The Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act – Californians may possess up to one ounce of marijuana/cannabis, up to eight grams of concentrated marijuana/cannabis, and up to six ounces of cannabis plants (which must be grown at home).

Studies Show Car Accidents Spike After Marijuana Legalization

The following states have also legalized marijuana:

  • Colorado (2012)
  • Washington (2012)
  • Alaska (2014)
  • Oregon (2014)
  • Maine (2016)
  • Massachusetts (2016)
  • Nevada (2016)
  • Vermont (2018)
  • Michigan (2018)
  • Illinois (2019)
  • New Jersey (2020)
  • Montana (2020)
  • Arizona (2020)
  • New York (2021)
  • Virginia (2021)
  • New Mexico (2021)
  • Connecticut (2021)

Although studies have shown that marijuana use doesn’t necessarily increase in states where the drug is legalized, the impact on car accidents may be more concerning.

Below we will look at whether or not marijuana legalization impacts car accident rates. We’ll also discuss California’s marijuana laws in detail and review how to file a personal injury claim after a car accident due to another person’s negligence.

Does Marijuana Legalization Lead to More Car Accidents?

A study released earlier this year from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) confirmed that car crash rates “spiked” in correlation with the legalization of recreational marijuana in certain states.

The following states reported an increase in car accidents following the legalization of marijuana:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington

“Our latest research makes it clear that legalizing marijuana for recreational use does increase overall crash rates,” IIHS President, David Harkey, said. “That’s obviously something policymakers and safety professionals will need to address as more states move to liberalize their laws – even if the way marijuana affects crash risk for individual drivers remains uncertain.”

In the five aforementioned states, the impact of marijuana legalization and subsequent retail sales resulted in a 6% increase in motor vehicle injury crash rates and a 4% increase in car accident deaths when compared with other Western states where recreational use of the drug was illegal.

The preliminary results of a separate IIHS study, however, seem to indicate that injured drivers who used marijuana alone and visited emergency rooms in California, Colorado, and Oregon were no more likely to be involved in crashes than drivers who hadn’t used marijuana. That said, when drivers used marijuana in combination with alcohol, an increased car crash risk was found.

Some additional statistics on car accidents and marijuana legalization include:

  • The legalization of marijuana in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington was associated with a 4% increase in motor vehicle collision claim frequency compared with the other Western states between 2012 and 2019.
  • In a survey conducted with 1,200 emergency room patients, only 4% of the drivers involved in car crashes self-reported marijuana by itself over the previous eight hours (compared with 9% of those who weren’t involved in a crash).
  • 13% of the car crash-involved drivers tested positive for marijuana only (compared with 16% of the control set).

Is it Legal to Drive Under the Influence of Marijuana in California?

No. In California, it is unlawful to drive under the influence of any drug or mind-altering substance (including marijuana and alcohol). Additionally, regardless of whether your marijuana use is for medical purposes, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of the drug.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), marijuana affects driving in the following ways:

  • Slows your reaction time and ability to make decisions when behind the wheel by impacting the part of the brain that controls body movement, balance, and coordination.
  • Can impair your judgment and memory.
  • Can negatively impact your attentiveness, as well as perception of time and speed.
  • Can affect your ability to draw from past driving experiences (especially in emergency situations, according to the OTS).
  • Can increase your proclivity to take risks while driving, with overall higher doses of marijuana tending to cause greater impairment when it comes to driving.

DUI Marijuana Laws and Penalties in California

How Prevalent is Marijuana/Cannabis Use Among Drivers?

California DUI marijuana laws are similar to DUI alcohol laws in terms of penalties. The primary difference between DUI marijuana laws and DUI alcohol laws involves the concentration limit that a driver can legally have in their blood. With alcohol, there is a set blood alcohol content limit (BAC) of 0.08% for most drivers – with 0.04% for commercial vehicle drivers and 0.01% if under 21.

For marijuana, there is no set blood concentration limit or test available to determine such an amount. However, a California driver can still be convicted of a marijuana DUI without such a test.

The potential penalties for a California DUI marijuana charge include:

  • 1st Offense: Up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
  • 2nd Offense: Between 96 hours and one year of jail time as well as a fine up to $1,000, mandatory DUI school, and a suspended license.
  • 3rd Offense: Between 120 days and one year of jail time as well as a fine up to $1,000, mandatory DUI school, and a revoked license.
  • Misdemeanor DUI with Injury: Between five days and one year of jail time as well as a fine up to $5,000, mandatory DUI school, and a revoked license.
  • Felony DUI: Between 16 months and three years of state prison time as well as a fine up to $1,000, mandatory DUI school, and a revoked license.
  • Felony DUI with Injury: Between 16 months and 16 years in state prison as well as a fine up to $5,000 (in addition to possible restitution to injured parties), mandatory DUI school, and a revoked license.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Car Accident

If you’ve been injured in a car accident due to another’s negligence – including driving under the influence of marijuana – you may be eligible for financial compensation through a civil lawsuit. Personal injury claims can be an effective means of recovering various types of damages after a car crash.

Some common damages that may be recoverable in a car accident claim include:

  • Hospital bills
  • Medical care costs
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, Dordulian Law Group (DLG) offers free and no obligation consultations 24/7. Our experienced and proven car accident attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have about filing a claim and can provide you with an estimate of how much your case may be worth.

With DLG, there is never any fee until we help you recover a maximum financial damages award for your car accident claim.

To learn more about filing a civil lawsuit after your car accident injury, contact DLG today at 818-322-4056. We’ve helped injured victims like you secure more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts, and we’re ready to fight to help you obtain the justice you deserve.

Go See Sam