AUSTIN (KXAN) — Doctors with Seton Healthcare recently published a study finding that states with legalized recreational marijuana don’t have a greater increase rate of car crash deaths.
The study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, looked at auto crash fatalities in Colorado and Washington states.
“They were the first two states to pass legalized marijuana,” says Dr. Jayson Aydelotte, a trauma surgeon at Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas. “If you remember back to that time, there were tons of people with a lot of verve on both sides of the issues.”
During the debate on whether or not to legalize marijuana, Aydelotte says people who were against it used the argument that there would be more drugged drivers causing deadly crashes on the roads.
“It was a very impassioned argument, we just wanted to see if that were true,” says Aydelotte, who adds that it is very uncommon to see somebody who has nothing but marijuana in their system and crashes their car.
Aydelotte and his team compared data to states where the drug is illegal and found no significant difference in fatality rates between the two groups.
However, a recent insurance study released last week claimed there is link between increased car crash claims to legalized marijuana. The Highway Loss Data Institute said the study found collision claims in Colorado, Washington and Oregon went up 2.7 percent in the years since recreational marijuana was legalized.
Researchers accounted for factors such as the number of vehicles on the road in the study and control states, age and gender of drivers, weather and even whether the driver making a claim was employed. Neighboring states with similar fluctuations in claims were used for comparison.
Aydelotte says the study conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute didn’t use the same common denominator that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration uses for its crash deaths (how many billions of miles are traveled in that state).
With additional reporting by the Associated Press.