AAA found that fatal crashes involving THC-positive drivers doubled after Washington legalized marijuana, causing them to oppose recreational legalization.
More than two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization, according to the latest polling data from the Pew Research Center. Just don’t count the American Automobile Association (AAA) among them.
“AAA opposes the legalization of marijuana for recreational use because of its inherent traffic safety risks and because of the difficulties in writing legislation that protects the public and treats drivers fairly,” the organization announced in a statement.
New research conducted by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found the percentage of fatal crashes involving drivers who tested positive for cannabis have doubled in Washington since the state legalized recreational marijuana. Between 2008 and 2012, the yearly average of drivers who had detectable levels of THC in their system involved in fatal crashes was 56. From 2013 to 2017, the number jumped to 130 drivers.
AAA is now concerned that legalizing recreational marijuana leads to more dangerous and deadly drivers on the road. However, AAA officials did say their study only demonstrated a correlation, not a causation. Over the course of the 10-year study, the number of fatalities on the road overall decreased.
“Results from the analysis suggest that legalization of recreational use of marijuana may increase the rate of THC-positive drivers involved in fatal crashes,” Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a statement.
The study used 10 years of Washington state traffic data. Numbers reported by AAA are similar to those found by the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission. Region 11 Target Zero Manager Doug Dahl says the study’s findings confirm that cannabis use negatively affects driving, but adds that other studies demonstrate that when drivers have a 0.08 blood-alcohol level or above, it raises crash risks fourfold or more.
“Even more concerning … in many of our THC-positive fatal crashes the driver is also positive for alcohol, and that crash risk is much higher than the risk of impairment of a single substance — as high as 17 times more likely,” Dahl wrote in an email to The Bellingham Herald. “Impairment is the No. 1 cause of fatal crashes in Washington, and poly-drug use is now the most prevalent form of impairment.”
Last year, AAA released a different study that reported 15 million American had got behind the wheel of car after consuming marijuana in the past 30 days. In addition, the organization found that 70% of Americans believe it’s “unlikely” police will pull them over for driving under the influence of cannabis.