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Car accidents could rise along with cannabis legalization

Recreational cannabis is legal in California, but many people may wonder about the impact of legalization on roadway safety. There's little evidence on how cannabis can affect a person's driving abilities, and there has only been limited research to find a legal limit for cannabis consumption before driving that's similar to the blood alcohol concentration used to regulate drunk driving. However, some studies indicate that concerns are legitimate when it comes to the potential for increased car accidents due to cannabis intoxication.

On one level, the concern is far broader and extends to all forms of drug-influenced driving. For example, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report reviewing a Texas motor vehicle crash in which 12 people were killed when a pickup truck rammed into a church bus. The driver was found to be under the influence of drugs, including marijuana as well as sedatives. Some of the most serious accidents involving drugs include cannabis in combination with more powerful substances, and the opiate crisis presents its own threats to safety.

Another study found that there was no increase in auto accident fatalities linked to the legalization of cannabis. However, further research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that some states where marijuana was legalized saw a spike in car crashes of all levels of severity. In Colorado, Washington and Oregon, recreational cannabis legalization was followed by a 6 percent increase in overall crashes. No similar increase was observed in neighboring states that had not legalized marijuana.

Cannabis-influenced driving is far from the only threat that people face on the roads. In addition, distracted, drunk or even drowsy drivers are at serious risk for causing car accidents. A personal injury lawyer can help people injured in a crash due to someone else's negligent driving pursue compensation for their damages, including medical bills and lost wages.

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