• Injured? Contact Us Injured? Contact Us
  • E-mail
View Our Practice Areas

Has legal marijuana increased road accidents? The debate rages.

Mark Twain is reported to have famously declared, "There are lies. There are damned lies. Then there are statistics."

We are coming up on five years since the Colorado State Constitution was changed under Amendment 64, officially legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Every resident of the state remembers the emotional arguments on both sides of the issue leading up to the vote. One of the primary arguments against legalization, of course, related to the possible increase in traffic accidents, as more drivers took to the road after a night of marijuana use. As one of the talking points in the debate, the State Legislature even considered strengthening the state's DUI laws.

We'll use this post to review how drivers in the state are doing, based on fatal accident statistics in which drivers tested positive at the scene for marijuana use.

On one side of the discussion, we're not doing so well

By most accounts, Colorado drivers have not necessarily made our roads more dangerous in terms of the accident rate, but the number of deadly accidents in which marijuana use played a part is on the increase. Whether the legalization is to blame, however, is a matter still open for debate. According to an August, 2017, report in the Denver Post, the drivers who tested positive for marijuana at the scene of deadly crashes had significantly higher potency in their blood than analysis statistics showed in 2013, the year before full legalization went into effect (2014). Often five times higher, in fact.

Was the increased potency due to legalization? While it is always dubious to speculate on cause-and-effect, the trend seems to point to an increased number of drivers testing positive at the scene of accidents that resulted in at least one fatality. In 2016, each of the drivers who DID test positive for marijuana in their blood was shown to have used the drug within two hours prior to the accident. According to a 2015 study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk driving is on the decline nationally, while drivers testing positive for marijuana use is increasing.

But wait...there is always the other side

On the other side of the argument, a recent study by Columbia University determined that legalization of pot has not added to the fatality rate directly attributable to increased levels of the drug in the driver's bloodstream, nor has the number of related fatal crashes gone up. When interviewed at the end of the first year of legalization, Emily Wilfong of the Colorado Department of Transportation, report that there had actually been a 6 percent decrease in the number of traffic fatalities in which a driver at the scene was tested positive for marijuana use. In addition, she noted that annual highway fatality rates in Colorado must always take into account the weather conditions.

The debate is likely to continue

The argument over whether legalized marijuana has made Colorado roads more dangerous is likely to continue, with each side pointing to statistics backing up their case. What is certain, however, is that driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal. If a driver who caused an accident is shown to have been driving under the influence, there will be criminal charges filed and victims and their families have the right to sue for financial damages under the state's civil litigation laws.

If you were involved in an accident in which the other driver was negligent due to marijuana intoxication, call our office to discuss your case.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
  • American Bar Association
  • American Association for Justice
  • CTLA  Colorado | Trial Lawyers Association
  • Lead Counsel | LC | Rated | Lead Counsel Rated Attorney
  • Featured on The Law | Personal Injury

Call us at 303-952-0703 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Main Office
50 S. Steele St.
Suite 875
Denver, CO 80209

Map & Directions

By Appointment Only
121 S. Tejon St.
Suite 1107
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Map & Directions

By Appointment Only
2 N. Cascade Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Map & Directions

By Appointment Only
155 E. Boardwalk Dr.
Suite 400
Fort Collins, CO 80525

Map & Directions

By Appointment Only
1155 Kelly Johnson Blvd.
Suite 111
Colorado Springs, CO 80920

Map & Directions