|Highway fatalities have fallen steadily every year since states began passing medical marijuana laws. They are now at their lowest point since 1949.|
If marijuana really caused car accidents — you know, the way alcohol does — America’s highways would be awash in blood because of the herb’s growing popularity.
But even as marijuana use — and society’s acceptance of it — grows every year, highway fatalities are diminishing.
Sure, some of the reasons why include such things as safer vehicles, more seat-belt usage, fewer miles driven (due to high gas prices and other factors), and wider awareness of traffic safety.
But the fact remains that none of these factors could cancel out the huge wave of death and destruction that would be obvious to everyone — if marijuana caused car wrecks.
So why is it, again, that we needed a per se cutoff point for THC blood levels, an idea being pushed by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske’s office?
Current “driving while drugged” DUI laws, in most states, are based on actual impairment, not a number (such as 5 ng/ml) pulled out of thin air without any evidence — scientific or otherwise — to back it up.
Statistics from the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), published on CarInsurance.org, tell us that highway fatalities have dropped to their lowest level in 62 years.
According to author Cecil Helton, just seven years ago, a staggering 10,000 more Americans (43,510 fatalities) died in fatal traffic crashes than did in 2011 (32,310 fatalities).
|Cecil Helton, CarInsurance.org: Fatalities in 2011 represent a decrease of more than 26 percent over 2005|
“That means fatalities in 2011 represent a decrease of more than 26 percent over 2005,” Helton said. “That’s an impressive reduction, even if 2011 only posted a decline of about 1.7 percent as compared to the 32,885 fatalities that occurred in 2010.”
This has happened, mind you, even as marijuana use has expanded from a tiny group of jazz musicians, migrant workers and fringe types right into the mainstream of American society.
At least one scientific study, reported on 4AutoInsuranceQuote.org, has concluded that marijuana users are better drivers, especially when compared with those who use alcohol behind the wheel. Twenty years of study showed that marijuana smokers may actually be getting a bad rap and that they may actually have fewer accidents than other drivers.
Research studies in the Netherlands at the Dutch Institute for Road Safety Research showed that drivers with blood alcohol levels of .05 percent up to .08 percent had accidents five times more often than other drivers — and with higher amounts of alcohol, accidents happening up to 15 times more often.
But accident rates from the marijuana smokers showed these drivers actually posed no additional risk at all!
In addition, one study from NHTSA showed that drivers with THC in their systems have accident rates lower than those of drug-free drivers.
“What law enforcement agencies and insurers do not understand is that driving while high is actually a safe activity,” said 4AutoInsuranceQuote.org CEO James Shaffer. “I guess the key to safer driving is to use marijuana, but to do it under wraps.”
One recent study indicated that traffic related fatalities fell by a statistically significant amount, up to nine percent, in states that have legalized medical marijuana. Entitled “Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption,” the study [PDF], conducted in November 2011, found increased cannabis use by adults decreased alcohol related traffic deaths in those states.
“Marijuana users often say that when they are high, they feel like they are driving 60 miles per hour but actually are only going 30 miles per hour,” Shaffer said. “When somebody is drunk driving, on the other hand, they often feel like they are driving 30 miles per hour but they are actually driving 80 miles per hour. This is what makes alcohol dangerous behind the wheel, and marijuana safe.”
As an auto insurance provider, 4autoinsurancequote.org said that marijuana use can also have an indirect effect on insurance rates. Because of the correlation between marijuana use and lower rates of accident responsibility, they said marijuana users, as a group, can expect in the future to see lower insurance rates than non-marijuana users.
“The hypocrisy of it all is that if you get caught driving under the influence of marijuana, you will be fined and perhaps thrown into jail,” Shaffer said. “What’s worse is that your insurance rates will definitely increase due to the traffic violation.”
Despite these facts, Drug Czar Kerlikowske and his White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has made it one of the Obama Administration’s top “substance-abuse” priorities to legally establish a per-se marijuana DUI cutoff point.
The ONDCP’s slimy tendrils can be found in such places as Colorado, which looks set to pass an “unscientific and unnecessary” (as NORML put it in a “national action alert“) marijuana DUI per se limit of five nanograms per milliliter, and in Washington state, where an identical limit is included in the “legalization” initiative I-502, which is leading in the polls and endorsed by NORML.
Washington’s voters will decide on I-502 and its 5 ng/ml cannabis DUI limit in November.