Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Medical cannabis may cut traffic deaths: study

States With Medical Marijuana Laws Have Fewer Traffic Fatalities, But Why Isn't Clear - David DiSalvo, Forbes:

December 31, 2016 - "States that passed medical marijuana laws have seen an 11% reduction in traffic fatalities on average, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Compared to states without medical marijuana laws, those with them had 26% fewer traffic fatalities overall. Study data was collected between 1985 and 2014.

"The impact was greatest for the 25 to 44 age group, which is also the group with the highest percentage of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. In 2013, about 47% of fatally injured drivers with blood alcohol levels over the legal limit were between 24 and 44, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The impact was also significant for the 15 to 24 age group....

"'This finding suggests that the mechanisms by which medical marijuana laws reduce traffic fatalities mostly operate in those younger adults, a group also frequently involved in alcohol-related traffic fatalities,' said Julian Santaella-Tenorio, a doctoral student in Epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, in a press statement.

"But other parts of this study don’t neatly line up behind any single conclusion. For instance, the age group 45 and older didn’t see a decrease in fatalities.... In addition, some states with medical marijuana laws actually saw upticks in traffic fatalities. Both California and New Mexico initially saw traffic fatality reductions (16% and 17.5%, respectively) that gradually became increases.

"So what this study appears to show is at least a plausible correlation between medical marijuana laws and lower traffic fatalities, but it’s not clear why this is true in some states and not others. It’s possible that other factors, like stronger police enforcement and more effective public health programs targeting drunk driving, work in tandem with medical marijuana laws in some states."

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