Does Marijuana Increase Car Accidents?

Last updated on: April 8, 2021


The legalization of marijuana is a hot topic in the United States. Many individuals argue that marijuana should be legalized at least for medical purposes, while others contend that the substance should be legal for both medical and recreational use.

The opposition asserts that marijuana is a harmful gateway drug to harder substances and that it should remain illegal. Numerous states have enacted some type of marijuana legalization.

Medical marijuana is largely legalized in Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Hawaii.

The recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. In remaining states and under federal law, the use of marijuana for any reason is illegal.

Car Crash Statistics

With marijuana becoming legalized in much of the U.S., a large portion of the public has become increasingly concerned about how the substance affects drivers and if driving under the influence of marijuana is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

Studies have seemingly argued opposing points. For example, one study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety examined insurance claims for car crashes that occurred between 2012 and 2016. Claims were compared in states that had recently legalized pot—specifically, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. Insurance claims in nearby states that had not legalized marijuana were also studied.

The report showed that over the four-year period, the frequency of collision claims in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon were about three percent higher than the researchers would have expected had marijuana not been legalized in those states.

However, another report published soon thereafter claimed, after studying federal data on fatal car accidents from 2009 to 2015, that there was no significant association between the legalization of marijuana and car accident fatality rates.

It is important to note that the studies examined different sets of data—the first one looked at all car crashes, whereas the second one looked at only fatal car accidents. Federal research has demonstrated that smoking marijuana before getting behind the wheel does increase the risk of being in an accident. However, it is reportedly much less impairing than alcohol. Though marijuana does seem to impair psychomotor skills, the impairment is not long-lasting or severe.

Do I Need a Denver Personal Injury Lawyer?

Regardless of why an accident occurs, negligent drivers must be held accountable for their actions. Even if marijuana is legal in a state, a driver who drives while high and causes an accident may be liable for the medical bills and other expenses incurred by an accident victim. If marijuana is illegal and a driver causes an accident while under the influence of the substance, the driver may face additional penalties. It is possible for a driver to be both criminally and civilly liable for causing a motor vehicle accident.

After being involved in an accident, car crash victims should consult with an experienced Denver car accident lawyer who can help them fully understand their legal rights. Personal injury lawyers are able to present compelling evidence to maximize an accident victim’s recovery. Drug test results, eyewitness reports, and various other types of evidence have been used to prove liability in cases where a driver was under the influence of marijuana and caused an accident.

How Zinda Law Group Can Help

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by someone driving under the influence of marijuana, the Denver personal injury attorneys at Zinda Law Group have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you seek the full damages you deserve. Call us today at 800-863-5312 for a free and confidential consultation. Meetings with attorneys by appointment only.