According to a new study, states that have legalized medical marijuana have fewer traffic fatalities, especially among younger drivers.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health discovered that there was an 11 percent drop in traffic deaths on average in states that have enacted medical marijuana laws, In addition, the presence of medical-marijuana dispensaries also correlated with fewer traffic fatalities.
The study’s lead author, Silvia Martins, said that the drop in fatalities were due to people switching from booze to weed, which meant less alcohol-impaired drivers on the road.
From the Washington Post:
There was little evidence of a reduction in the traffic fatality rate for people 45 or older, who are disproportionately represented in larger numbers among enrollees in state medical-marijuana programs. The largest drop in traffic fatality rates in states with medical-marijuana laws occurred among drivers ages 15 to 44.
“We found evidence that states with the marijuana laws in place compared with those which did not, reported, on average, lower rates of drivers endorsing driving after having too many drinks,” Martins said in a statement. adding that the correlation could be due to the “strength of public health laws related to driving, infrastructure characteristics, or the quality of health care systems.”
But some states, such as California and New Mexico, saw gradual increases in their traffic fatality rates after an initial decline.
The study analyzed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data on traffic fatalities from 1985 to 2014, taking into account factors such as graduated driver licensing laws, median household income, unemployment rates, increases in states’ respective speed limits, seat belts laws, and laws banning usage of cellphones and texting while driving.
The study was launched in response to growing concerns over states’ loosening of marijuana laws and the potential effects on public safety. According to the Washington Post, previous studies suggested that stoned drivers tend to weave in and out of lanes and had slower reaction times.
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