Pubdate: Thu, 22 Jun 2017
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Copyright: 2017 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Contact: P.O. Box 1909, Seattle, WA 98111-1909
Author: P. Solomon Banda


DENVER (AP) - A recent insurance study links increased car crash
claims to legalized recreational marijuana.

The Highway Loss Data Institute, a leading insurance research group,
said in study results released Thursday that collision claims in
Colorado, Washington, and Oregon went up 2.7 percent in the years
since legal recreational marijuana sales began when compared with
surrounding states.

Legal recreational pot sales in Colorado began in January 2014,
followed six months later in Washington, and in October 2015 in Oregon.

"We believe that the data is saying that crash risk has increased in
these states and those crash risks are associated with the
legalization of marijuana," said Matt Moore, senior vice president
with the institute, which analyzes insurance data to observe emerging
auto-safety trends.

Mason Tvert, a marijuana legalization advocate and communications
director with the Marijuana Policy Project, questioned the study's
comparison of claims in rural states such as Idaho, Wyoming, and
Montana with Colorado, Oregon and Washington that have dense
population centers and how that affected the study's findings.

"The study raises more questions than it provides answers, and it's an
area that would surely receive more study, and deservedly so," Tvert

Researchers accounted for factors such as the number of vehicles on
the road in the study and control states, age and gender of drivers,
weather and even whether the driver making a claim was employed.
Neighboring states with similar fluctuations in claims were used for

Insurance industry groups have been keeping a close watch on claims
when auto accidents across the country began to go up in 2013 after
more than a decade of steady decline. Insurance companies found
several possible factors at play in the spike that included distracted
driving through texting or cellphone use, road construction, and an
improved economy that has led to leisurely drives and more miles
driven, as well as marijuana legalization.

"It would appear, probably not to anyone's surprise, that the use of
marijuana contributes to crashes," said Kenton Brine, president of the
industry group Northwest Insurance Council that represents companies
in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. He added: "It would be difficult to
say that marijuana is a definitive factor, lacking a citation, in a
significant number of crashes to say that what we're seeing here is a

The Highway Loss Data Institute said its study examined claims from
January 2012 to October 2016.

"The problem here is that it's a pretty new experience," said Carole
Walker of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, an
industry group that covers Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.
"This is the first study that has been able to isolate legal pot as
one of the factors."

Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational
marijuana for adults.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman Russ Rader adds that
alcohol impairment remains one of the biggest concerns on the road.

"While we have proven countermeasures, proven strategies for reducing
alcohol impaired driving, there are a lot of unanswered questions
about marijuana and driving," Rader said.

A study released last year by AAA's safety foundation found legal THC
limits established by states with legal marijuana have no scientific
basis and can result in innocent drivers being convicted, and guilty
drivers being released.

Moore of the Highway Loss Data Institute said they hope the study's
findings will be considered by lawmakers and regulators in states
where marijuana legalization is under consideration or recently enacted.
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MAP posted-by: Matt