Car Accidents Increase in Wake of Marijuana Legalization, New Studies Reveal

A new study offers more evidence of an increase in car accidents in Western states that have legalized marijuana. Along with feelings of relaxation and euphoria, a marijuana high alters the user’s time and sensory perception. That kind of impairment can easily lead to a drugged driving car accident.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says in a news release that crash rates spiked with the legalization of recreational marijuana use and retail sales in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. While the effects varied from state to state, the overall correlation between crash rates and legalization of marijuana was identified in studies by the IIHS and the affiliated Highway Loss Data Institute.

Does Marijuana Lead to Car Accidents?

Yes, the new studies support this claim. “Our latest research makes it clear that legalizing marijuana for recreational use does increase overall crash rates,” says David Harkey who is president of the IIHS and the Highway Data Loss Institute. “That is something that policy makers and safety professionals will have to address as more states moves to liberalize their laws.”

Is It Legal To Drive Under the Influence of Marijuana in Nevada?

No, while recreational use of marijuana is legal in Nevada, it is still illegal to drive while impaired by marijuana or other substances. If you have been injured in a marijuana-related car accident caused by someone who was driving while high, you may seek compensation from the at-fault driver for your medical expenses and other losses. At Sam & Ash, LLP, in Las Vegas, our car accident attorneys can review the details of your accident and hold accountable the drugged driver who caused an accident and injuries while impaired by marijuana or cannabis alternatives.

Studies of Motor Vehicle Accident Rates After Marijuana Legalization

Researchers at the Insurance Institute and affiliated Highway Data Loss Institute have conducted a series of studies since 2014 to understand how legalization of marijuana affects crash rates and insurance claims.

The most recent research of changes in traffic crash rates after legalization of marijuana found that legalization of recreational marijuana in the five Western states was associated with a 6.6% increase in injury crash rates and a 4 percent increase in fatal crash rates compared to other Western states where marijuana use was illegal.

The legalization of retail sales of marijuana in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington was associated with a 4 percent increase in the frequency of insurance claims for collisions compared with other western states from 2012 to 2018.

The objective of the study was to determine the effects of the state-by-state changes in marijuana laws on trends in their traffic crashes during the years 2009 through 2019 for Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada.

Decreases in Nevada Crash Rates Found After Marijuana Legalization

The effects of marijuana legalization varied among the states. In Nevada, the researchers found that the estimated combined effect of legalizing the use and start of retail sales of marijuana corresponded with a 6.7% decrease in injury crash rates. California saw a 5% increase in injury crash rates following legalization, and a 1% increase after retail sales began.

“Nevada saw decreases in injury crash rates both after marijuana use was legalized and again after retail sales began,” the study says. “Similarly, the effect of marijuana legalization on fatal crash rates was less severe for California and Nevada. California and Nevada saw decreases in fatal crash rates of 5% and 8%, respectively, although both estimates are statistically nonsignificant.”

The study authors say the negligible impact of marijuana legalization and sales in California and Nevada on car accident rates could be due to lessons learned from states that went through legalization earlier. For example, in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, injury crash rates rose by 4 to 14% after marijuana use was legalized, then increased again after retail sales began for overall increases ranging from 8 to 18%.

The 17.8% increase in injury crash rates in Colorado — the first state to legalize recreational use in 2012 and sales in 2014 — suggests a burst of enthusiasm that leveled off as marijuana’s new legal status became more commonplace, the news release says.

Cannabis has been legal for medical use in California since 1996 and for recreational use since late 2016. Nevada became the latest Western state to adopt legal marijuana following a public referendum in 2016.

“Lessons learned” in the early days of legal marijuana included stricter enforcement of marijuana-impaired driving laws and preventing marijuana access by minors, especially the availability of edibles, the study says. States have also worked to develop more effective public service announcements about the responsible use of marijuana.

“National, state, and local governments considering changes to their marijuana policies should be cautious, proceed slowly, and take note of the lessons learned from these initial experiences,” the researchers conclude. “Policy changes regarding marijuana use must not hamper the effort to eliminate impaired driving.”

DUI Marijuana Laws in Nevada

Using marijuana and then driving is like drinking and driving. If an individual gets high and gets behind the wheel and is stopped by police in Nevada, he or she could be charged with driving under the influence of drugs.

Under Nevada law (NRS 484C.110), a person is illegally under the influence of marijuana if chemical tests show their blood or urine exceeds legal levels, which means:

  • For marijuana — 2 nanograms per milliliter
  • For marijuana metabolite (formed as THC breaks down) — 5 nanograms per milliliter

If the drugged driver causes a traffic accident with injuries, the at-fault driver may be held finically accountable for the harm caused by the careless decision to drive while high. An accident victim may pursue a personal injury lawsuit regardless of the outcome of any charges against the driver in criminal court.

Talk to a Marijuana-related Car Accident Lawyer in Las Vegas, NV Now

If you’ve been injured in a car accident caused by someone who was driving while under the influence of marijuana, call Sam & Ash, LLP today. Our experienced attorneys are available to answer your questions and provide a free case review. You never pay anything out-of-pocket when you work with us. We only receive a legal fee if we obtain money for you through a negotiated settlement or court award.

At Sam & Ash, LLP, we’re committed to your recovery. When a drugged driver has done you wrong, we fight for What’s Right. Call us today or contact us online to get started with a free case review.

Author: Ash Watkins

Ash started her legal career defending insurance companies against injury victims. She saw how insurance companies treated people who had legitimate injury claims. But she also saw how notoriously sleazy the personal injury lawyers were. Neither side was focused on the injured person, so she decided to do something about it.