Study: More marijuana-positive drivers involved in fatal car accidents in Colorado

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Colorado license plate over marijuana

AURORA, Colo. — A study by the University of Colorado School of Medicine shows the proportion of marijuana-positive drivers involved in fatal vehicle accidents in Colorado has increased dramatically since the commercialization of medical marijuana in the middle of 2009, researchers announced Thursday.

Using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System from 1994 to 2011, researchers looked at fatal car accidents in Colorado and the 34 states that didn’t have medical marijuana laws.

They found fatal car crashes in Colorado with at least one driver who tested positive for marijuana was 4.5 percent in the first six months of 1994. In the last six months of 2011, that percentage had jumped to 10 percent. The researchers found no major changes over the same time in the proportion of drivers in fatal crashes in which drivers were alcohol-impaired.

Lead study author Stacy Salomonsen-Sautel said the study raises concerns and shows a need for better education and prevention programs to curb impaired driving.



  • 333maxwell

    Uhhgh Yet at the same time, traffic FATALITIES are DOWN in Colorado by double digits since they enacted medical marijuana. As are alcohol sales, teen suicides and prescription drug deaths.

    WHY when they say ‘people test positive for marijuana in fatalities more frequently’ Do they NOT mention BUT our traffic fatalities are down considerably over most all other ‘non medical states’.

    Statistics are a funny thing, using only ‘half the story’ is nothing more than a cry for attention by propagandists,.

  • Pfin Kler

    Yes, but what were the percentages of drivers in fatal crashes in which drivers were alcohol-impaired in those same years.

  • Stel1776

    This study says nothing of culpability. Of course if there is an increase in cannabis usage in the general population there will be a corresponding increase in detectable metabolite levels in drivers. IE, if 10% of the population is regularly using cannabis, then if it has little effect on crash risk, we would expect to find about 10% of drivers to test positive given its detectability for days. This study was funded by the NIDA btw.

    Oh and there is this:

    “From 2006 to 2011, traffic fatalities decreased in Colorado 16 percent”
    The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact. Rocky Mountain HIDTA. 2013.

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