Crash rates increase in states that have legalized recreational marijuana use, studies show

Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 5:40 PM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Take a look in your mirror and be more aware.

That’s the message one group is putting out for drivers.

Recreational marijuana usage will be legal in Virginia July 1.

Although it’s illegal to drive high, one group says the turn of the calendar could bring new consequences.

“What we’re seeing is a continued increase in crash rates in those states where marijuana has been legalized for recreational use,” said David Harkey, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety president.

Harkey says there is a correlation between the legalization and more crashes.

One factor is the impairment marijuana puts on drivers.

“People do drive slower, they’re a little less aggressive, but they have longer reaction times and so it’s a mixed bag. They’re still impaired and I think that’s an important point to make,” said Harkey.

However, the drug alone is not the whole reason for the increase.

Data from IIHS reveals that when drivers combine it with alcohol is when the rates jump up.

“Alcohol impairment is still one of the more risky scenarios that you find in crash-involved drivers, but, marijuana combined with alcohol is building on top of that,” said Harkey.

IIHS recommends contacting police if you see any signs of impaired drivers.

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