An obscure theory that America’s highways are less safe on April 20, a day when marijuana smokers publicly celebrate the use of their drug of choice, seems to be gaining traction.
A 2016 study reveals an increase in accident insurance claims in three U.S. states where recreational marijuana use is legal. Some researchers with St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver – just over the border with Washington state – where recreational pot use is legal – have reported a “noticeable increase” in fatal traffic crashes for several years on that particular evening, which has been championed as an ad-hoc holiday to celebrate pot use.
The study’s findings don’t identify whether any drivers involved in vehicle accidents on that specific day in question were driving under marijuana’s influence or that pot smoking caused the accident. It’s merely a correlation of two given – yet disparate – fact
Why April 20? That’s the day randomly picked in 1992 by article published in High Times magazine to popularize the notion of celebrating marijuana use.
St. Paul’s researchers compared crashes that occurred between 4:20 p.m. and midnight on April 20, with accidents that happened during the same time periods one week before and one week after that day (April 13 and April 27). The author of the study, Dr. John Staples, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia in Canada, admitted it is possible that people on these days were also drinking and/or taking other drugs. But when reviewing similar data in other U.S. states for the same time periods, Staples noted that in three states where crash risks increased the most (Georgia, New York, and Texas), none have legalized recreational marijuana use.
Staples’s study also brings up the fact that it is still quite difficult to determine when drivers who smoke pot end up causing accidents, because accurate roadside tests for drug levels in the body don’t yet exist, although there is empiric evidence that smoking marijuana makes some drivers a danger to others.
According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, the number of vehicle collisions reported to insurance companies in Colorado, Oregon and Washington is three percent higher than what would have been expected if those states had not made it legal to buy pot.
“We see strong evidence of an increased crash risk in states that have approved recreational marijuana sales,” says said Matt Moore, the senior vice president at the Institute. But his conclusion comes with the caveat that his study fails to mention whether the increase in collisions in those states is directly caused by drivers who were high on pot or whether drivers have a combination of drugs and alcohol or multiple drugs in their system.
If you or a family member has been injured in a car accident caused by a driver who was driving while impaired by drugs or under the influence of alcohol, please contact the Billy Johnson Injury Law Firm any time by calling us at 606-437-4488; or fill out our online contact form. to arrange a free case evaluation.