Medical marijuana has been legal in California for more than two decades. In 2018, recreational marijuana will be legal, as well. Will the further legalization of marijuana pose a significant threat to the safety of California drivers? This is a question posed by many opponents to the legalization of marijuana. California has already seen an increase in traffic accidents over the past decade. Opponents point to the established and well-known dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol. They argue that permitting legal drug use will open the floodgates for even more severe and deadly accidents.
Did legalizing medical marijuana cause more frequent or severe traffic accidents? A Columbia University study asked just that question. It found that the rate of traffic fatalities actually declined in states that legalized medical marijuana.
Specifically, it found that “traffic deaths dropped by 11 percent in states where medical marijuana laws took effect.” The study also found that accident fatality rates in states with legal marijuana laws were 26% lower than in states without similar laws. The largest drop in traffic accident fatalities was for drivers who were most likely to be involved in drunk driving accidents.
On the other hand, there are reports that say differently. Some found that the number of accident fatalities increased immediately after medical marijuana laws were passed. There was an initial increase in deaths immediately after the laws were passed. The number of deaths then declined over time. Does this mean that legalizing recreational marijuana will not have an effect on traffic accident deaths?
The statewide legalization of recreational marijuana is fairly new. This means that there is a limited amount of information about its effect on accidents. As of 2017, only four states and Washington, D.C. currently permit the recreational use of marijuana. In 2018, California, Massachusetts, and Nevada can officially be added to this list. Early studies have shown that the legalization of recreational marijuana may cause more frequent, but less harmful, accidents.
One study, by the Highway Loss Data Institute, found that the number of traffic accidents increased in states where recreational marijuana was legalized. The study compared insurance claims in three states where recreational marijuana was legal with three nearby states where recreational marijuana was not. It found that collision claim frequencies in the states with legalization laws had increased by 2.7%. The study did not, however, analyze data that would indicate if these more frequent collisions were more likely to be fatal.
Another study found that collisions may be more frequent but not necessarily more likley to cause death. In fact, the study went so far as to say there was “no significant association” between legalizing of recreational marijuana and “subsequent changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates.” It may be best to conclude that legal marijauana causes “a slight increase in minor accidents that don’t prove fatal.”
Again, the legal use of recreational marijuana is still fairly new. It will take years to compile and analyze evidence to determine if traffic accidents become more frequent or more lethal. Until then, it is important to exercise reasonable care and caution when using the soon-to-be legal drug.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is dangerous and can pose a serious threat to others on the road. If you have been injured in an accident by a driver who was under the influence of marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs you may be entitled to compensation. You can file a personal injury claim for damages. When an accident is the result of drunk or drugged driving, a victim can pursue compensation based on the other driver’s negligence.
Negligence occurs when a driver operates a vehicle without regard to the safety and well-being of others on the road. Driving under the influence of drugs is explicitly against the law. When you break the law, you breach the duty of care you owe to other drivers. Drugged driving is negligent driving.
If you are injured in a California drugged driving accident you may face unexpected financial costs. These could include significant medical bills, property damage, and lost earnings from work. A personal injury claim based on the negligence of a drugged driver can help to compensate you for these (and other) costs. California may also permit the recovery of punitive damages if the driver who caused your injury acted with malice.
Proving malice can be difficult because it requires showing that the driver acted willfully and with knowledge. However, you can use a driver’s history of DUIs as proof of malice. This is true regardless of the risks those prior DUIs posed to the safety of others. Contact an attorney if you have been injured by a driver who was under the influence of marijauana. You may be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries. If you’ve been injured, contact our Los Angeles or Anaheim office today for a free consultation.
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