Legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes could lead to more traffic accidents, according to a new study released by the Insurance Information Institute (III), a nonprofit insurance think tank.
With the number of states allowing pot for non-medical reasons increasing, there are likely to be more marijuana-impaired drivers on the nation’s roads, the report says.
The authors, James Lynch, the III’s chief actuary and vice president of research and education, and Lucian McMahon, its senior research specialist, warned that this, in turn, could lead to more crashes.
Though the authors noted that marijuana affects users differently, they also noted that the drug generally impairs users’ cognitive and motor skills.
“The intensity and duration of marijuana impairment depends on several factors,” they wrote.
“But most research agrees that marijuana use to some degree results in impairment in the following: coordination, memory, associative learning, attention, cognitive flexibility and reaction time.”
But the study also conceded there is no agreed-upon impairment limit above which an individual is indisputably impaired. Nor is there a breathalyzer equivalent for marijuana impairment, though some have argued that saliva testing may help in determining THC levels during a roadside stop,
Others have argued that the mere presence of THC still cannot consistently and scientifically determine impairment.
Finally, the authors claim auto insurance rates may be affected by the spread of marijuana legalization, particularly if such legalization is associated with an increase in impaired driving and related accidents. An individual’s auto insurance rates may rise following conviction for driving under the influence of marijuana.
Currently, 10 states and Washington D.C. permit recreational marijuana for any adult over the age of 21.
Additional Reading: Marijuana and Driving: A Cop’s Perspective
Read the full study here.