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Two Studies About Driving and Marijuana Have Very Different Results

If you live in a state with legalized recreational marijuana, there’s a mixed bag of news about driving, according to two new studies. On the plus side, fatal car accidents aren’t more likely in pro-pot states. On the downside, you may be more likely to get into a crash.

A recent comparison of statistics gathered by The American Journal of Public Health and the Highway Loss Data Institute shows two very different outcomes in studies about the effects of marijuana on drivers in states where cannabis has gone recreational.

A study by the American Journal of Public Health looked at motor vehicle fatalities and found no significant increase in Colorado and Washington State, where recreational marijuana use is legal, and compared this with eight states where it is not legal that have similar populations, vehicle ownership, and traffic laws. Alabama, Kentucky, and Texas were among the states in the comparison group.

Jason Adedoyte,  lead author of the study and a trauma surgeon at Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas at Austin, said “Our study focused on deaths and actually found what we expected going into this…back in 2012 some argued that people would ride around in their cars crash and die. Our study proved that isn’t true.”

The American Journal of Public Health examined data from 2009 to 2015 taken from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

In contrast, a study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found that crashes had gone up.

They analyzed the frequency of car insurance collision claims in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, where recreational marijuana is also permitted, finding a 3 percent increase in collision claims in those states compared with Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada, where it is not legal.

Matt Moore, senior vice president of The Highway Loss Data Institute, explained, “In states that passed legislation approving the recreational use of marijuana, the data showed that there was a strong indicator that marijuana was a factor in considering the rise of claims…we looked at the correlation of states with similar insurance claim frequencies, and the states we chose had the highest correlation.”

The Institute examined about 2.5 million insurance collision claims from January 2012 and October 2016.

Recreational marijuana use has been approved by eight states including Maine, Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, Nevada and the District of Columbia. Federal law prohibits recreational use of marijuana anywhere in the country.