After retail sales of recreational cannabis began, the frequency of collision insurance claims in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington State rose about 6 per cent higher than in nearby states where marijuana is still illegal, the IIHS said in the study.
The report analyzed insurance and police data from some of the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, including Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Nevada.
Harkey said 14 percent of drivers confirmed to be using marijuana had a child in their vehicle, reflecting concerns that marijuana use isn't as confined as alcohol use, which tends to happen most in evenings and weekends. A report Thursday from a highway-safety research group supports the camp that believe the two are linked.
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Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in all 50 states, including D.C., but determining if someone is impaired by it can be tricky. "States exploring legalizing marijuana should consider this effect on highway safety", said IIHS-HLDI President David Harkey in a statement published online.
As more USA states legalize marijuana, a debate is growing around whether greater availability of cannabis products is causing an increase in auto accidents.
"We know a lot of states are considering making recreational marijuana available", Harkey said. Researchers say that it is hard to "quantify the net effect that marijuana legalization has on real-world traffic safety outcomes" in part because some studies "did not carefully match control drivers to crash-involved drivers or failed to control for concurrent alcohol use".
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Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. That followed stark warnings from the National Transportation Safety Board, which on Tuesday issued several recommendations to combat drug-impaired driving.
Among the NTSB's recommendations was one that called for the traffic safety administration to develop specifications for "oral fluid" screening devices that law enforcement can use to test drivers for drug impairment during roadside stops. THC can remain in a person's bloodstream for weeks after using.
Law enforcement says regardless if a person has consumed alcohol or drugs, they're all unsafe and can affect a person's ability to drive safely.
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