Glass containers display varieties of marijuana for sale at the Station, a retail and medical cannabis dispensary, in Boulder, Colo., on Aug. 11, 2016. (Brennan Linsley/AP)
A traffic safety organization is warning that two recent studies suggest that legalizing recreational marijuana could lead to an increase in crashes, including deadly ones.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that studies by the Highway Loss Data Institute and researchers at the University of Texas at Austin point to an increase in crash risk in states that legalized the recreational use of pot.
The Highway Loss Data Institute — which, like the IIHS, is a nonprofit organization backed by insurance companies — reported in June that insurance companies received higher-than-expected collision claims in Colorado, Washington and Oregon after those states allowed people to buy marijuana for recreational purposes. The frequency of claims rose about 3 percent, compared with surrounding western states that continued to have laws on the books prohibiting recreational use of marijuana, the institute found.
Meanwhile, the University of Texas study also found an increase in fatal crashes in two states that fully legalized pot. Yet the authors of the UT study — which was published in the online edition of the American Journal of Public Health in June — also said that the increase was too small to be statistically significant.
The IIHS, in its upcoming Status Report newsletter, takes a slightly different view of the Texas study than the Texas researchers did. The IIHS argues that the Texas