How To Reduce Traffic Deaths: Drive Stoned

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

The University of Colorado-Denver looked into fatalities in the 16 states that have legalized medical marijuana and unearthed perplexing results: The states saw an average nine percent drop in traffic deaths since their medical marijuana laws took effect.

“We went into our research expecting the opposite effect,” says study co-author Daniel Rees, a professor of economics at the University of Colorado-Denver. “We thought medical marijuana legalization would increase traffic fatalities. We were stunned by the results.” It even stunned, which printed the story.

Several factors seem to influence this:

  • People who smoke dope drink less. The Beer Institute says beer purchases go down by an average of 5 percent after medical marijuana laws are passed.
  • Stoned people drive more carefully: A clinical trial conducted in Israel compared the simulated driving skills of people who’d consumed alcohol and those who’d smoked marijuana. The researchers found that alcohol caused these people to speed up their driving, while smoking marijuana prompted the drivers to slow down.

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  • Asdf Asdf on Dec 18, 2011
    The researchers found that alcohol caused these people to speed up their driving, while smoking marijuana prompted the drivers to slow down. If that means "to slow down" as in driving below the speed limit, that's an argument for banning marijuana - there are way too many slow drivers out there as it is :P.

  • CJinSD CJinSD on Dec 19, 2011

    I don't see any mention of rates changing in the news item, just that the number of deaths fell 9%. What happened to the number of fatalities per million vehicle miles? I can only speak for California, but our economy imploded as marijuana was legalized, not that there was a causal relationship. Deaths would be down because traffic is down anyway. Trips at times that used to be gridlock are now merely high traffic, and times that used to be high traffic are now smooth sailing. We have plenty of marijuana users crashing in bizarre ways when they do drive too. What is the nationwide death total doing? We use less oil now, but it doesn't have anything to do with CAFE. We have less economic activity, leading to less driving, saving oil. People will cheer for stupid policies right up until it is their job killed to clean up the environment and their government cheese that doesn't get made or shipped.

  • Obbop Obbop on Dec 19, 2011

    Many years ago, back in the early 1980s, I believe, residing in Modesto, California, I read a news story in the local newspaper about a recent California-state study using the California Highway Patrol as the study's source and that agency, in turn, used various sources such as hired assistance from various universities, etc. The far-reaching lengthy study was released to the public with little fanfare and little media coverage. I recall the MAJOR conclusion and the quote from the CHP head bureaucrat conveyed his surprise... after a LENGTHY investigation, etc. those involved with the study were unable to prove even ONE incident wherein a single fatality could be attributed solely to a driver being influenced by marijuana's effects alone. More than ample incidents of alcohol and other substances being involved but pot alone? Nope. That does not absolve pot from not being an attributing factor but pot alone? Educate, disallow toking and driving out of sheer principles. But tax the damn stuff, encourage ADULT rational use and set the parameters for use. Perhaps pot-only "bars" where short naps are allowed if needed. Get the corporations out of We, the Peoples affairs. Order the jack-booted thugs and their immense bureaucracies to back off. Order the self-centered self-serving agents of corporate USA to back off. Legalize, attempt to keep the growing, distribution and sale channels minimized to allow the maximum number of common folks to reap some income.... I would hope. Tax at a fair rate and make it easy to pay the tax and advertise to encourage those involved to collect and forward the tax as a valuable public service... make it the patriotic thing to do with large rewards for those able to lead authorities to those ignoring the tax that would assist even those not partaking of the pot. YES!!! MANY things to be worked out for the good of We, the People but it could be done... just boot the vested interests out the door!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mark MacInnis Mark MacInnis on Dec 19, 2011

    A few points: 1. Correlation does not necessary imply causation. 2. Must not have included my state in the analysis...I read recently (forget the source...sorry!) that in the state of Michigan, which legalized Medical Marijuana in 2008, I believe (same year we elected our current about correlation and causality! But I digress....) anyway, Michigan's driving fatalities INCREASED 8% year over year from 2010 to 2011... 3. As a teen, I frequently,erm.....arrived stoned. Also, drove while under the influence. Always got home safe, never killed anyone, by the grace of God....but my experiences anecdotally confirmed that I was a (marginally) safer driver while sparked up than I was while dranked up..... 4. As a person who SURVIVED such foolish behaviour...I wouldn't recommend it.

    • Geozinger Geozinger on Dec 20, 2011

      @MarkMcInnis: "4. As a person who SURVIVED such foolish behaviour…I wouldn’t recommend it." Me too, brother.