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Studies Track Car Accident Risks in States with Legal Marijuana

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Laws pertaining to cannabis have begun to shift throughout the U.S., with numerous states passing legislation to permit medicinal marijuana, reduce penalties for individuals charged with cannabis-related crimes, and even legalize it recreationally. While many advocates believe changing views and policies on marijuana will lead to more states and potentially even the federal government legalizing pot, others state the need to address potential risks associated with legalization – including risks of car accidents.

The issue surrounding marijuana-related auto accidents isn’t new, but it did gain greater attention after investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that the driver who caused last month’s fatal church bus accident near Concan, Texas was under the influence of marijuana and a sedative. The NTSB report also noted an increase in the number of drug-impaired drivers nationwide, and reiterated the need for addressing the growing problem.

The NTSB’s report and call to action coincides with a report recently released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The report contained two studies which analyzed crash rates in states with legal pot in comparison to non-legal states, and crash rates within the state before and after legalization:

  • Rise in Total Accidents – The first study found that states which have legalized the recreational use of pot have seen more motor vehicle accidents overall. In fact, auto accidents are up by roughly 6% in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington compared to nearby states that don’t have legal marijuana. A previous research from 2017 noted no increase in fatal wrecks.
  • Before & After Legalization – In the second study, researchers looks at figures for police-reported wrecks before and after marijuana legalization. They found similar results, including a 5.2% rise in accident rates following legalization.

The findings add to the growing research on marijuana and how drivers who use pot prior to driving can pose risks to public safety. One study, for example, found that in a small sample of drivers, those who used marijuana before driving tended to that slower perceptual and thinking skills compared to drivers who didn’t. Other research has also found that motorists under the influence of marijuana were more likely to weave when tested on driving simulators.

The most significant barrier to getting drugged drivers off the road and enforcing the law has to do with the lack of standards to determining when drivers can be considered “too high to drive.” Unlike the .08 BAC threshold for alcohol impairment, there isn’t a definitive or widely agreed-upon limit for marijuana intoxication. There can also be wide variance in how marijuana is processed by individuals, how long it remains in a person’s system, and how it affects their ability to drive.

The Law on Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired

Although experts say more research is needed to improve our understanding of the correlation between crash risks and pot, existing laws in Texas and every state in the U.S. already make it a crime to drive while intoxicated, whether it’s by alcohol, pot, a prescription medication, or any other substance that can affect one’s ability to safely operate their vehicle. Not only is driving under the influence of drugs illegal, it’s also a highly negligent act.

That negligence and disregard to the safety of others is precisely why victims harmed in preventable car accidents have the right to hold drunk and drugged drivers accountable. By pursuing a personal injury lawsuit in the civil justice system – which is separate from the criminal justice system and focuses on fault and responsibility instead of guilt in relation to a crime – victims injured in drugged and drunk driving accidents can seek financial compensation for their injuries and damages, which may include:

  • Medical expenses for any emergency, past, or future treatment
  • Lost wages and future lost earnings
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Disability or disfigurement
  • Emotional suffering and anguish
  • Property damage

The Daspit Law Firm: Texas Trial Lawyers Fighting for Justice

At The Daspit Law Firm, our personal injury lawyers focus our practice on protecting the rights and futures of victims injured in accidents that could and should have been prevented. This includes all types of motor vehicle accidents involving drugged or drunk drivers – whether it be a commercial bus or truck accident, a bicycle or pedestrian accident, or wrecks involving passenger vehicles.

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a crash caused by an impaired motorist, you need to know that any criminal case against the driver is a matter which only concerns their criminal guilt; it does not provide a meaningful source of compensation to victims. To pursue a financial recovery, victims will need to file personal injury claims, which are typically defended against zealously by insurance companies and big corporations.

Our attorneys at The Daspit Law Firm know how to fight back against insurers and corporations, and leverage the insight of Founding Attorney John Daspit, a former insurance defense lawyer to create an even playing field for our clients. Learn how we can put our resources to work for you by calling (888) 273-1045 or contacting us online for a FREE consultation. The Daspit Law Firm is available 24/7 to help, and proudly serves clients throughout Houston and the state of Texas from multiple office locations.

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All too often, accident victims are steamrolled by insurance companies determined to minimize or deny their claims. Don't let this happen to you. Hire us to fight for the compensation you deserve.

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At The Daspit Law Firm, Our Team of Attorneys Handles the Full Range of Personal Injury Cases, Including Car and Truck Accidents, Industrial Accidents, Construction Accidents, Maritime & Offshore Accidents, and Much More.


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