Traffic fatalities decline in States with Medical Marijuana Laws: Study

Posted by Sagar Satapathy on December 26, 2016.

Amid the debate over the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana in the U.S., a new study conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that the states with medical marijuana laws have experienced 11 percent reduction in traffic-related deaths since those laws came into effect.

The study, published online in the American Journal of Public Health, also found that states with medical marijuana laws had 26 percent lower rates of traffic related deaths, compared to states where marijuana remains illegal.

The most important finding in the study was associated with the decrease of traffic fatalities among the younger adults, a group usually incline to alcohol-related accidents or deaths. The researchers found an 11 percent decrease for those aged 15 to 24, and 12 percent for those 25 to 44.

The researchers of the study speculated that drops in traffic deaths may be explained by people swapping alcohol for marijuana, leading to reduced drunk driving. “It is also possible that states with medical marijuana laws and lower traffic fatality rates may be related to lower levels of alcohol-impaired driving behavior in these states,” noted Silvia Martins, Associate Professor at the Mailman School and senior author of the study.

The findings were drawn from nationwide census data in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System from 1985 and 2014, maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The association between medical marijuana laws and traffic fatalities for drivers, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians was examined for each state enacting the laws. Overall, a total of 1.22 million people died in traffic fatalities across the country during the study period.

As many as 28 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana legislation, and most medical marijuana patients are younger than 45 years old.

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