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Marijuana is Having a Big Impact on Car Crash Fatalities

Recently some of Rhode Island’s top medical experts gathered at Butler Hospital in Providence, and they were coming together for a common cause—to dispel the belief that marijuana is a harmless drug.

More than 250 people showed up at the presentation, and that audience consisted primarily of parents of adolescents and teenagers.

Dr. Nora Volkow, who serves as the National Director of the Institute on Drug Abuse has a big message about the impact of marijuana, particularly as states around the country opt to legalize its recreational usage. Dr. Volkow told the audience marijuana has the ability to impact memory, judgment, coordination, and vision.

All of these components she pointed to are also vital to something else—driving ability.

Rhode Island is among 23 other states that have legalized marijuana for state-sanctioned medical use, but research is showing states that allow for medical marijuana usage tend to also have higher recreational usage of the drug among residents.

Columbia Study Results

At the start of 2014, as the marijuana debate was really heating up, researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health released extensive data from six different states, and among those was Rhode Island. The states used in the research all utilize toxicology reports on drivers who are in any way involved in a fatal automobile accident.

According to the data, drugs accounted for over 28% of traffic deaths in 2010, which was up 16 percent from 1999, and marijuana was the primary culprit to blame for that increase according to the research.

One of the doctors who worked on the study said when a driver is under the influence of marijuana, the risk of a fatal crash occurring is 24 percent higher, when compared to a sober person.

The Impact on Younger Drivers

The results of this study tend to shed some light on one demographic more so than others—young drivers.

Separate studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show almost half of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for marijuana usage during the time of their crash were under the age of 25.

The Colorado Effect

Colorado is serving as an example to states around the country—it’s been seen as a trailblazing state in terms of the legalization of marijuana, which started in 2009, when medical marijuana dispensaries were legalized in the state. Since that time, there’s been a significant spike in the number of fatal car crashes involving motorists under the influence of marijuana.

The Future of Rhode Island Automobile Accidents

While we can’t know for certain, there is some startling evidence becoming available that marijuana may start playing a major role in how we view fatal car accidents in this country.

As Rhode Island moves closer to the path of legalizing marijuana, there may be a similar impact to what Colorado residents have seen in terms of more automobile accidents that may be attributed to the drug’s usage. 

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