Percentage of fatal crashes with THC-positive drivers doubles after WA legalizes recreational pot


WASHINGTON STATE (WIVB) — AAA released a new study, showing an apparent correlation between marijuana legalization and fatal crashes in the state of Washington.

“This study enabled us to review a full 10-years’ worth of data about the potential impact of marijuana on driving safety – and it raises significant concerns,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Results from the analysis suggest that legalization of recreational use of marijuana may increase the rate of THC-positive drivers involved in fatal crashes.”

Active THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. AAA says it can slow reaction times, inhibit concentration and cloud judgment, with numerous studies concluding that marijuana impairs one’s driving abilities.

According to the research, the share of drivers who tested positive for active THC after a fatal crash has doubled since Washington legalized marijuana in December 2012.

Specifically, about 8.8 percent of Washington drivers involved in fatal crashes were THC-positive between 2008 and 2012. Between 2013 and 2017, that rate rose to 18 percent.

AAA says the average number of THC-positive drivers also increased, jumping from 56 per year in the first time frame to 130 per year after pot was legalized.

One thing that remains unclear is if marijuana contributed to the crashes. This study merely looked at the presence of active THC in drivers.

Recreational marijuana is now legal in 11 states and Washington D.C. It’s under consideration in New York.

In order to try lessening the rate of drug-impaired driving, seven states have set legal non-zero or “per se” limits on the amount of THC that can be present in a driver’s body.

“Simply put, if you’ve used marijuana, don’t drive,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research. “And if you plan to drive, don’t use marijuana.”

That being said, AAA has taken a stance of being anti-legalization of recreational marijuana due to “inherent traffic safety risks” and “difficulties in writing legislation that protects the public and treats drivers fairly.”

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